"We are being persecuted and threatened," a woman of the Baka ethnic group in the Congo Basin region of central Africa told the human rights organization Survival International. The organization has been collecting similar testimonies for years and compiles critical reports about human rights violations against indigenous peoples in nature reserves or national parks. In recent years, the complaints of the Baka people have become louder and louder. The area where they live, the forests of Messok Dja in the Congo Basin, is being transformed into a national park under the direction of the WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The project is financed by Europe.
The Baka feel harassed by the gamekeepers in the future national park. They have lived in the forests of Messok Dja for generations. "I am Baka, my father is Baka, my mother is Baka. Our ancestors entrusted this forest to us. Our food comes from the forest. When we are sick, we go there and collect our medicine," says a Baka woman. One day her children should also look for food in the forest. But now the forest is out of bounds, she says. The Baka people have been deprived of their habitat.
According to Survival International, more and more indigenous communities in Africa are becoming victims of an unscrupulous conservation industry. In recent years, the organization has repeatedly published photos, videos and testimonies of serious human rights violations by WWF-funded gamekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. The accusations range from arbitrary arrests to torture and even targeted killings. One of the main accusations: gamekeepers or rangers receive a bonus for every poacher they arrest. This motivates the rangers to arrest as many people as possible - whether they are guilty or not.
"With this system of premiums, more and more incentives are being created to arbitrarily arrest people and for violence to escalate further," Linda Poppe from the Berlin office of Survival International said in an interview with DW.
The money for the premiums comes from the European Union, while the German government also finances so-called "performance-related payments" for rangers, which includes bonus payments, in the Salonga National Park in the Congo Basin, Poppe said. The WWF also pays bonuses to rangers there.
Linda Poppe says. "You should rely on the indigenous people who live in these areas and who are often driven out to make way for nature reserves but who are actually the best allies of conservationists," she said. They were the ones being punished. In her view, the system contains the wrong incentives.