CAMEROON: THE PLIGHT OF THE BAKA PYGMIES

Source: www.africanakua.com/ Staff Writer, Cameroon

Amongst the many ethnic groups in Cameroon, there are a select few who have with great effort preserved and sustained their culture and heritage for a very long time. Though their style of living is uniquely basic and bereft of modern phenomena, they have been successful at maintaining their lifestyle having to live by hunting and gathering for millennia.

Furthermore, they have made very little headlines and live in what can be termed their own country, somewhat self-reliant and self-sustaining. Most notable is the Cameroonian Baka speaking pygmies of the Bantu ethnic group, located in the Eastern region of Cameroon, the border region with the Central African Republic and the Congo.

Some Pygmies in their local habitat

This tribe of Cameroon has survived for over four millennia and are marked by their physical characteristics such as their tremendously smaller body sizes.

For this reason alone, they face huge amounts of racism, strangely enough, it comes from fellow native Africans. Neighbouring tribal groups see them as “not humans” because of their physical differences. Hunting, as earlier mentioned, is a means of their survival. They are however, being punished for this because they are not made aware about laws and certain “restricted areas”, and to that effect, are persecuted.

The heritage of the Baka people is slowly dying. Corruption has made the youths there to resort to harmful drugs such as tramadol. Such drugs inhibit normal brain functions among many other terrible side effects, making the youths unable to hunt.

Some Pygmies on the street of Yaounde, Cameroon

The Baka people and their land was once respected, however, as time elapsed, more and more of their native land is being appropriated by the government of Cameroon and other groups. This has been going on for some time now, prominently from the early nineties. However, this time, the situation has escalated. Their heritage, culture and tradition are being threatened and at the very brink of extinction due to the massive degradation of the resources by outsiders from Cameroon’s Southern Region. The Baka people use these soon-to-be-devoured resources to sustain and support themselves.

Companies from Cameroon’s Southern region have begun invading the native lands of the Baka people, cutting down their hundred-year-old trees, seizing their lands and rendering them homeless. What even gives these companies the rights are the laws which prohibit the Baka from living in the forests. This has forced the Baka to leave the forests and live outside of their habitat. Most Baka children now die below age 5 from diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and typhoid fever which could have otherwise been
evaded with the use of resources they have in the forest to mitigate the deadly effects of the diseases.

Pygmies out of their home in the forests of the East region to demonstrate in the capital

In response to this, some Baka people have taken their plights to the nation’s capital, Yaoundé, to protest against these wrongful seizures and demeaning laws among many.

A plausible solution to these problems would be firstly for the government of Cameroon to return their lands and repeal any laws that are harmful to their survival and their very existence. So far, the government of Cameroon has not issued any statement.

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