Inside the Pygmy tribe where the men are bigamists and women are so unhappy they give themselves DIY abortions using tree bark – The Sun

HEARTBROKEN Aka looks down at her swollen tummy and sighs.

She's three months pregnant, but her husband, Ekwambe has just told her their relationship is over, and that he wants to concentrate on his marriage to his other wife Yambi – who is also pregnant with his baby.

Struggling to see how she can support herself and her unborn child, Aka decides she must abort her baby by drinking a potion created out of tree bark in a DIY termination.

It's a heartbreaking situation, but a common one in this small village in the south of the Congo, where illicit affairs, secret weddings, warring wives and feuding families blight one of the last pygmy tribes.

In the final instalment of three-part Channel 4 documentary Extreme Tribes: The Last Pygmies, filmmaker Livia Simoka meets the women living with bigamists in the 250-strong Mbendjele BaYaka tribe.

DIY abortions using tree bark

In the village, it's an ancient tradition for men to have more than one wife.

Ekwambe's first wife, Yambi, is heavily pregnant. He met his second wife Aka, while Yambi was away in another village and they wed in secret.

But now he has decided to leave her and stick with his original spouse, leaving Aka heartbroken.

"I want to end this pregnancy," she tearfully says,

"I will use tree bark from the forest. I will take it from a tree called Ngongu. I'll boil up the bark.

"Then I'll drink it and this pregnancy will be over."

It is not explained how this works, but in a tribe where going to a doctor or getting a prescription isn't an option, they rely on their shared knowledge of plants instead.

According to the WHO in 2008, more than 97 per cent of abortions in Africa were unsafe, with the lowest rate of 58 per cent in South Africa.

In neighbouring Tanzania where abortion is still illegal, 40 per cent of women seeking abortion in rural areas have used plants to induce abortion

However, before Aka has a chance to act on her threat, a chaotic brawl breaks out during the night between the two wives' families, who physically attack each other in violent scenes.
The next day, deputy chief Banda shouts: "The village is being destroyed by polygamy."

The warring sides are summoned to village court and – summarising the judgement of the village – Banda announces Ekwambe must stay with both his pregnant wives.

While Aka is happy that she can keep her husband and her baby, Yambi and Ekwambe are less than thrilled.

'You spend too much time having sex'

But it's not just Aka and Yambi who are embroiled in this love triangle.

Ekwambe is also accused of sleeping with another tribe member's wife – a rumour he denies.

One of the village elders launches an attack on him in vicious scenes.

"You are lying… you spend most of your time having sex with women," they shout.

"You have two wives, you should be taking care of them. You do not take care of your children, you just want sex."

Seemingly oblivious to the despair of his wives, it is Ekwambe who believes he is hard done by.

He moans: "If I had just one wife life would be more peaceful. One wife, less noise.

"There is a lot of shouting when you have two wives."

'Sickness is caused by sorcery'

Despite this unrest, it's clear that the tribe are fiercely protective of its members.

This is demonstrated when presenter Livia is introduced to a woman called Akandjo.

She is shown bed-bound, lying on the floor of a mud hut complaining of stomach and back pain, evidently suffering from a serious illness, and can no longer walk.

With the village so inaccessible, and the nearest hospital out of reach, seeing a doctor is not an option – so the villagers speculate on what the cause is. "What do you think it is?" Livia asks.

A villager says: "We think that this sickness comes from sorcery."

"We just know it because the witch doctor told us.

"If she is sick because someone is a sorcerer in her family then they could come and spit on her and she'd get better. The saliva would heal her."

Later in the episode, Akandjo dies, much to the devastation of the whole village, who voice their grief openly, wailing, chanting and sobbing as the men of the village prepare the grave.

It's a touching moment, which shows the ties that link the tribe are tightly bound.

Watch Extreme Tribe: The Last Pygmies tonight (Monday 22 July), 9pm, Channel 4

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