[twah, twaw]
The Twa, also known as Batwa, are a pygmy people who were the oldest recorded inhabitants of the Great Lakes region of central Africa. Current populations are found in the nations of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2000, they numbered approximately 80,000 people, making them significant minority groups in these countries.

There are also a number of southern "Twa" populations in Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana living in swamps and deserts far from the forest. These are little studied, and this article will deal only with the Twa of the Great Lakes region.


When the Hutu, a Bantu-speaking people, arrived in the region, they subjugated the Twa. Around the 15th century AD, the Tutsi, a Bantu-speaking Nilotic people, subsequently arrived and dominated both the Twa and the Hutu. The Twa speak the same language, Kinyarwanda, as the Hutu and Tutsi. For several hundred years, the Twa have been a very small minority in the area (currently 1% in Rwanda and Burundi) and have had little political role.

The Twa are often ignored in discussions about the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis, which reached its height in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.. About 30% of the Twa population of Rwanda died in the fighting.

Current situation

Traditionally, the Twa have been a semi-nomadic "hunter-gatherer" people group of the mountain forests. Due to clearing of the forests for agriculture, logging, development projects, or creation of conservation areas, the Twa have been forced to leave these areas and establish new homes. As they seek to develop new means of sustaining their communities (such as agriculture and livestock development) most are currently landless and live in poverty. The ancestral land rights of the Twa have never been recognized by their governments and no compensation has been made for lands lost.

Twa children have little access to education and their communities have limited representation in local and national government. Due to their pygmy ancestry, they continue to suffer ethnic prejudice, discrimination, violence, and general exclusion from society.


Groups working with the Twa

Distribution of the Twa

  • Volcano National Park, Rwanda (resettled, 1970's - 1980s)
  • Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda (resettled, 1970's - 1980s)
  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda (evicted 1991)
  • Mgahinga National Park, Uganda (evicted 1991)
  • Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Congo (evicted)
  • Virunga National Park, Congo (evicted)
  • Gishwati forest, Rwanda (evicted for forest plantation and dairy production, then as refugee lands)

See also

Other Pygmy groups

Researchers who studied pygmy culture and music

External links


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