Pygmy and Bantu Peace Deal

Between October 20th and 21st, the Pygmy and Bantu leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a peace deal. The basic context of the agreement stated that the two communities would remain neutral and respect one another’s human rights. This comes at a time of great loss, thousands of lives on both sides, between the Pygmy and Bantu who have a long conflict-ridden history. The Pygmy clans lived peacefully in the jungles of Africa until they began interacting with the Bantu government. The Pygmy peoples have typically been marginalized as the servile class, thought to belong to the Bantu from birth. In addition to being treated as slaves by the Bantu, the cultural heritage of the Pygmy culture has been uprooted and is possibly in danger of being erased from history. Forced from their homes and natural habitats, the Pygmy are unwillingly reliant on the Bantu which has resulted in insufficient wages and being treated as a lower class.

This treatment has brought about conflict and death on both sides. A combination of militia actions by the Pygmy and poor treatment of the Pygmy clans by the Bantu has lead to multiple conflicts and massacres. Since 2013, the United Nations has urged the DR Congo government and UN missions in the region to increase their efforts in decreasing violence and help the large numbers of displaced Congolese people, both Bantu and Pygmy. Although the new peace deal–signed in October 2015–is a step in the right direction, it does not seem promising.

Traditionally, peace deals involving discrimination and long histories of conflict do not last without heavy intervention and effort. It only takes one antagonistic action by a single group to reignite the fight and this is often the case when long histories of conflict and humanitarian tragedies are involved. Over the years, the United Nations has called on peacekeeping forces to increase its efforts to prevent further casualties and conflict in the area. With numerous ongoing conflicts elsewhere in the DR Congo, it will be a challenging task for peacekeeping forces or the Congolese government to maintain the agreements, including the most recent one between the Pygmy and Bantu. A more widespread and large-scale effort may be necessary to quell the ongoing tragedies taking place in this African region.