Batwa Community Demands Fair Access to Government-Led Programs.

By Ambrose Mugisha

RUBANDA – The Batwa, one of the minority groups living in Rubanda District in South Western Uganda, are voicing strong concerns about their exclusion from government-led developmental programs, demanding immediate action.

Decades ago, the Batwa faced the devastating consequences of forced eviction from their ancestral homeland in the Ecuya, Bwindi, and Mgahinga forests, which were gazetted as forest reserves by the Government of Uganda in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, the government did not provide adequate alternative habitats and survival opportunities for the Batwa, leaving them vulnerable and struggling with food insecurity ever since.

The Batwa’s survival has heavily relied on the goodwill of Non-Governmental Organizations and meager payments for casual labor, particularly in the hills of Kisoro, Rubanda, and Kanungu Districts, where they perform jobs like digging for the Bakiga and Bafumbira communities.

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Despite the government’s introduction of initiatives like the Parish Development Model (PDM), aimed at lifting millions of Ugandans out of poverty, the Batwa feel neglected and marginalized. They have consistently failed to benefit from programs such as the Parish Development Model, Emyooga, Operation Wealth Creation, and other employment opportunities.

Last month, Semajeri Gad, the Executive Director of Batwa Development Organization (BDO), emphasized the Batwa’s unwavering loyalty to the government despite being consistently overlooked. He highlighted how the recent Parish Development Model (PDM) campaign completely disregarded the Batwa, denying them a chance to benefit from this critical initiative.

During the Functional Adult Literacy for the Batwa in Southwestern Uganda Blic Challenge, held at the prestigious Volcano Hotel in Rubanda District, a section of Batwa living in Kashasha Town Council raised their voices, pleading with the Ugandan government to ensure inclusivity in distributing funds for the Parish Development Model (PDM). Tukahirwa Scovia and Mukuru Medard represented the Batwa community from Nyarushengye village in Kashasha Town Council and showcased their community’s potential to effectively utilize the funds allocated for the PDM.

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CUE IN TUKAHIRWA AND MUKURU…… ON PDM….RR//

Surprisingly, during the workshop, Tushemereirwe Provia, the Town Agent of Burandamo ward, discovered that no Batwa individuals were registered to receive the Parish Development Model funds. In response, she urgently appealed to the government to ensure that the Batwa community receives the necessary funding for their development.

CUE IN PROVIA…..ON BATWA…………..RR//

Addressing this issue, Edward Kamusiime, an esteemed academic staff member at Makerere University, stressed the significance of government initiatives aimed at educating and empowering the Batwa community. He emphasized that some Batwa members might mistakenly believe they possess adequate knowledge when they require additional education and awareness. This highlights the pressing need for educational programs focused on informing the Batwa about essential government initiatives like the Parish Development Model.

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CUE IN EDWARD……ON GOVERNMENT……. RR//

As an indigenous people, the Batwa endure systematic discrimination from the government and various sectors of society, with their rights neither recognized nor respected. Their limited agricultural land is mainly situated in hard-to-reach hilly terrain near the forest, making their situation even more challenging.

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