As with other countries in the Central African region, the Republic of Congo is home to several groups of indigenous peoples collectively known as so-called “Pygmies”, although most consider this term to be pejorative, preferring to be referred to by the name of their ethnic group (for example, the Babenga, Baka, Babenjele and Bambendzele). The exact numbers of indigenous peoples in Congo are unknown, as is the exact number of groups that could be considered “indigenous” in accordance with generally accepted criteria, including that of self-identification. They do not reside in specific areas, and it is thought that indigenous peoples in Congo live in most of the regions of the country, and are primarily semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, where local conditional still allow.
These groups suffer from a broad range of human rights and other problems, including lack of recognition of their traditional ways of life, lack of citizenship and identity documents, increasing problems in access to lands and natural resources, and widespread discrimination, impacting on their working conditions, and their possibility to participate in decision-making at all levels. Only very recently has Government and civil society begun to look at the issues affecting indigenous peoples as a specific group in Congo.
The ILO, in collaboration with the OHCHR, has provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Congo, in the process of drafting a Law on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Assistance was provided in the form of training on indigenous peoples’ rights for government officials, NGOs and indigenous representatives, support to workshops organized for the purposes of consultations on the draft law, and technical comments on the draft law. This is the first draft law that specifically addresses the rights of indigenous peoples in the African region, and the first instance in which indigenous peoples have been addressed as such at the national level.
Research has also been undertaken by PRO 169 in Congo on best practices for the implementation of the principles of Convention No. 169.