Indigenous people from DR Congo are refused to attend the Riddu Riđđu Festival

Riddu RiđđuRiddu Riđđu visit in DR Congo. Photo: Brita Ingebritsen / Rainforest Foundation.

The Schengen authorities in DR Congo have rejected visa applications from the indigenous group Bokoko Na Biso, who will attend the opening of the 26th Riddu Riđđu Festival in Manndalen on 13 July in the municipality of Kåfjord in Troms.


The stated reason is that the persons “could not demonstrate sufficient income or that they lived as professional dancers”.
These are impossible requirements and, in practice, a ban on travelling for most of the indigenous people in Congo who live outside the central areas. Bokoko Na Biso was invited to the festival to share their cultural expressions, so the Schengen authorities refuse to showcase their culture at a recognized indigenous festival.
 The visit has been planned for two years after Riddu Riđđu, together with the Rainforest Foundation, visited indigenous peoples and the Indigenous Peoples Festival in Kinshasa in 2015.
Festivals manager Karoline Trollvik and the renowned Saami ya Marja Helena Fjellheim Mortensson participated in academic and cultural contributions during the visit, and Riddu Riđđu has long been looking forward to this  reunion visit.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been assisting Riddu Riđđu and the Rainforest Fund in the process applying for visa applications again, but at the time of writing it is highly uncertain whether the group will be able to travel to Gáivuotna / Kåfjord to dance on the  stage during Riddu Riđđu 2017.
Riddu Riđđu Festivála and Regnskogfondet believe that the rejection is unacceptable, based on the reasons stated, and hopes the visa authorities will handle the complaint that has been sent so that the people can participate in Bokoko Na Biso’s culture on Thursday, July 13th.
“Neither Riddu Riđđu nor the Rainforest Fund has ever had problems with guests who have not returnd home or have applied for asylum.
We see this rejection as an attack on cultural workers and indigenous peoples of Belgian Schengen authorities. Such interpretations of guidelines are a serious obstacle to the exchange of indigenous culture, “says Karoline Trollvik, chief executive officer.
– The Schengen authorities in Belgium do not re-examine the cases they refuse. They refuses the appeal against the first rejection, saying that we had to apply again and have been given a new refusal.
It is unacceptable behavior by a public office. This group has its family and its affiliation in DR Congo. This visit has been planned for two years together with an organization that is used to sending people to Norway.
It is very sad that visa rules are practiced this way, says Gunnell E. Sandanger, Head of Central Africa Department in the Rainforest Foundation.

Source: Riddu Riđđu / Norway Today


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