The Baka and the Bantu peoples are two very different ethnic groups condemned to live together. From these relationships emerge one of the most serious problems which the Baka people faced: marginalization and abuse.

 

The Baka people are one of the most disadvantaged populations in sub-Saharan Africa. This pygmy ethnicity survives thanks to the jungle. Not so very long ago, this people formed a nomadic community who lived on fishing, hunting and gathering wild fruits. Nowadays, they have been forced to leave their settlements and to settle on the road sides, as a result of the deforestation and the preservation of the protected areas.

The baka pygmies are organized in small groups that rely on a leader who advises the rest. However, each individual is free to make his own decisions and officially there is not a hierarchical structure. Respect and personal autonomy are the two core values within the community.

Currently, Pygmies continue to develop their hunting and gathering activities, even though their lands have been reduced. This is why the Baka work the Bantu's lands in exchange for food, a minimum wage or even alcohol. The Bantu are one of Cameroon's majority ethnic groups. Although the Baka pygmies are not organized hierarchically among themselves, a relationship of this kind has been established with the Bantu people. This has led pygmies to submit to a situation of semi-slavery.

The non-recognition by institutions or society.

In this regard, one of the big problems is that the Cameroon government itself does not recognize the Baka pygmies in their laws as an indigenous people; however, even if it does classify them as such in practice. They are a marginalized people, both by the authorities and by the rest of the Cameroonian population. Baka people do not receive aid, their culture is not respected and, much less, their habitat is protected.

Nonetheless, the biggest problem is undoubtedly that the Bantu have never accepted that the Baka people are human beings at the same level as them. All this has generated high levels of racism and discrimination from the Bantu to the latter. Pygmies are treated as slaves in many occasions, being forced to work for the Bantu against their will and being paid with doses of alcohol. The objective of the Bantu is to keep the Pygmy people quiet and absent, in order to exercise control over this population. Meanwhile, the country's main authorities look the other way, demonstrating their impunity.

relaciones baka bantuA Bantu grabs the Pygmy Martial Akonja, from Mimbil. The Bantu tries to get Martial to work in his field that day.

Baka pygmies are forced to carry out the hardest jobs for the Bantu. If the Pygmies refuse to carry out such work they are flogged, beaten or imprisoned. Some ot them are even scourged with cables until suffer the most terrible torture. But despite all this, the police insist that Baka-Bantu relations are good. Some members of the police force even declare that it is good for the Bantu to force the Baka because they are lazy and spend the day consuming alcohol and marijuana.

The fact that the Bantu consider the pygmies baka inferior beings is a problem of mentality and education. The literacy and formation of the Baka people is fundamental for their empowerment and integration in the Cameroonian society. They are considered as lazy and alcoholic from the outside, probably because of the oppressive mentality of the Bantu. The recognition of the rights and freedoms of the Baka people is possible, but this change takes a lot of time. The first thing that must be done is to make the Cameroonian population aware that they are all people with equal conditions and capabilities. Education is the key. The younger Bakas are the ones with the broad access to it and the ones who most talk about rights and face the Bantu. Relationships of equality, mutual respect and collaboration will be the only ones capable of making Baka-Bantu coexistence possible.

 

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