For the first time in Burundi’s history, Batwa ethnic community will be represented in Cabinet.
President Evariste Ndayishimiye has formed a lean Cabinet of 15 members, down from 21, and named Imelde Sabushimike, a Batwa, Minister for Human Rights and Solidarity.
“It is great that the government realised that the Batwa community should be involved in the country’s governing,” said Emmanuel Nengo, a Batwa and chairman of Unite for the Promotion of Batwa (Uniproba).
Mr Nengo said appointment of an ethnic Twa to Cabinet gives hope for the community who have been marginalised for decades.
“Previously, we were marginalised and discriminated against. Many of us never went to school,” he said.
“Now, we believe the government is inclusive, before it only involved Tutsi and Hutu,” said Mr Nengo.
According to Uniproba, an association that promotes the rights of the Batwa, only 25 Batwas have university level education countrywide, 40 are still studying in different universities, 2,000 are in secondary school and around 20,000 in primary school.
According to the Burundi government, the Batwa make up 1 per cent of the country’s estimated 11 million people and represented by only three members of parliament. Majority of Batwa are hunters and gatherers.
Members of the new Cabinet are Prime Minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, who has been under US sanctions since 2015 over his alleged role in violations of human rights and repression of dissent during violence sparked by Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in office in 2015. Gervais Ndirakobuca, also on the US sanctions list, was appointed interior minister.