Pygmies in Congo treated like pets

Brazzaville - The ethnic Bantu group in Congo is exploiting pygmy populations by subjecting them to "slavery", according to a report published by a Congolese human rights group on Saturday.

Indigenous Pygmy groups "are considered by Bantu people as property in the same way that... pets are," said Roch Euloge Nzobo, programme director at the Congolese Human Rights Observatory (OCDH).

Researchers found evidence of slavery through a five-year study financed by the EU into the way of life of pygmies and their relationships with Bantu people, who are widespread across sub-Saharan Africa.

"The accounts we got show that some slavery is well and truly alive in Congo among its indigenous people," said OCDH in its report, stating that slavery was present in both the north and south of the country, where there are significant pygmy populations.

"The discrimination and exploitation that pygmies suffer from at the hands of the majority Bantus is still very profound. Their survival as a separate population depends on the respect of their human rights," said the report.

In February Congo introduced a law aimed at protecting the rights of pygmies and redressing inequalities with other ethnic populations.

Pygmies - so-called for their diminutive height - are in danger of extinction in Congo, according to the United Nations Population Fund, which estimates that they now make up only two percent of the country's population, or 3.6 million people.

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