Shocking moment Brit Extreme Tribes filmmaker gets caught in middle of a war between rival groups in Congo

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A BRITISH documentary film maker found herself in the middle of a tribal war between rival groups while filming in the Congo.

Livia Simoka arrived in remote Bonguindo to live among the Mbenejli tribe for five months, where two rival groups live alongside each other.

Livia Simoka arrived in remote Bonguindo to live among the Mbenejli tribe for five months
Channel 4
A tribal war broke out between rival groups while filming in the Congo
Channel 4

At one point, one man attempted to drag another off into the jungle in an explosive row over a family drug debt – three packs of marijuana and five cigarettes.

The Bantu tribe, a farming community who claim they own the Mbenejli tribe, liken their neighbours to animals living in squalor.

One Bantu man by the name of Prince attacked a Mbenejli man called Mondonga, shouting “I will stab him” and “I swear he must be killed.”

While Prince dragged Mondonga away, he turned around and sucker-punched his victim in the face.

Mondonga’s wife could be heard screaming: “I beg you, don’t beat him. Don’t beat him I beg you. Do you want to kill Mondonga?”

Mondonga’s face was seen covered in blood.

Akaya’s family is directly mine. They are like animals.”


Bantu man, Prince

He explained that he needed to go back to the village, but was afraid that Prince and his brother-in-law Loris were going to kill him.

Mondonga revealed: “They want to kill me. They have tried to shoot me with a gun. When I went to collect my head torch he said he wasn’t going to give it to me.

“He said be careful or I will kill you. He shot at me. I’m going to report it. The problem should be known. I got hurt, my blood has been shed.”

Simoka attempted to cool tensions by intervening.

She spoke to the Bantu man, saying: “Just stay back a minute, just stay back.

“Just calm down for a minute. Because things will get worse. If you go back now a fight’s going to start.’”Just f****** chill out for a little bit.”

However, Prince explained that the tensions ran deeper.

He said: “I don’t own Mondonga, but he is married to Mosengi and she is mine. I own all of that family.

“Akaya’s family is directly mine. They are like animals. Look at their houses. Our clothes are clean and theirs are dirty, they can wear their clothes for many days.”

Simoka said said she was shocked to discover how the tribes treated each other, admitting she was ‘naive’ about the problems.

Simoka said said she was shocked to discover how the tribes treated each other
Channel 4

Who are the Mbenejli tribe?

The pygmy tribe live a secret existence in the rain forests of the Congo.

The tribe – a group native to Central Africa – are distinguished by their sawed-off teeth, and live on a diet of hand-caught caterpillars and monkeys.

They believe in witchcraft, and even blame the death of a young mum on rumours she’d had sex with her brother-in-law, who had cursed her after the act.

The monkey is killed and prepared in a stew
A member of the tribe is seen with his hunting knife while looking for monkeys
Channel 4

Numbers of pygmy people – who typically are around 4ft 11 due to salt deficiency and diet and live in mud huts – are falling, with less than 500,000 worldwide.

In a new three-part Channel 4 documentary, filmmaker Livia Simoka gets unprecedented access to the 250-strong Congolese Mbendjele BaYaka tribe.

Monkey brains for breakfast

The daily routine for the tribe – which is headed up by leaders Mama and Papa – usually starts with a trip to the well before breakfast.

Traditionally, the women forage for bugs to eat while the men hunt- and in the jungle, everything is on the menu.

The women hunt caterpillars and gut them before cooking them on the fire
Livia spent five months living with Papa and Mama, both pictured
Channel 4

Yvon, Mama’s son, comes back with a small black monkey he’s killed with a shotgun, throwing its body on a fire first to burn the hair off.

“Will you eat everything?” Livia asks, clearly upset by the violent scenes in front of her.

“Yes we cook everything even the organs and the head,” Mama replies.

In graphic scenes, the family can then be seen preparing their kill for dinner, using a machete to chop the off the monkey’s head and bum.

The tribe keep the organs for dinner where they will make a monkey stew, but put the rest aside to eat the next day.

“It smells really smoky – what I imagine a human would smell like,” Livia comments.

Hunter Yvon gets to enjoy the biggest delicacy – the brains.

Sharpening and chiselling teeth

Within the community, sharpened teeth are considered beautiful, with one villager commenting: “If you have your teeth sharpened a man will want to flirt with you.”

To achieve this look, women have their teeth chiselled with blades and then filed down into points.

One of the tribe’s women, Angelique, prepares for her chiselling ceremony during the show.

The monkey stew is eaten by the whole tribe
The tribe shave their teeth into points to make them more ‘pretty’

“I’m excited to get my teeth sharpened like my sister. When I smile all the men will want me,” she says, gleefully.

Angelique lies on the floor with her limbs held down by villagers and bites on a stick while one of the elders uses a sharp knife and file to sand them into points.

Edmond says: “I’ve done it on many people, even children.”

Witchcraft and murder

Despite a lack of modern technology and 9-5 jobs, it quickly becomes apparent to Livia that life in the rainforest comes with the same issues of Western life – including family feuds and difficult relationships.

Tribe leaders Mama and Papa’s daughter Akaya is married  – but the pair are struggling to deal with the pressure of their families not getting on.

Kengule, Akaya’s husband, is accused of sorcery
Channel 4

Akaya’s family is grieving after her sister died during childbirth along with her baby.

Akaya says: “When we lost my sister I decided I would live at home – that I would stay and look after mum. But now my husband’s mother wants him to find another woman.”

Shockingly, her husband Kengule claims he has been accused of using witchcraft – which the tribe use to try and make sense of unexplained death – to kill Akaya’s sister.

He says: “For a while my wife and I had a good marriage. But then my wife’s family accused me of sorcery. They say I killed my wife’s sister, but when did they ever see me use sorcery?”

Kengule says: “I don’t know why everyone hates me so much. What have I done wrong?” “I heard your family spreading rumours saying I had sex with your sister and that’s why she died.” Kengule says, finally addressing the accusations.

Filmmaker Livia Simoka spent five months with the villagers
Channel 4

As a result of their increasing feud, the two families agree to meet up to air their grievances in a meeting known as a Mosambo.


Mama and the rest of the tribe deny spreading the rumours, but by the end of the meeting, the marriage is seemingly over, leaving Akaya in tears.

“I can’t live with Kengule now because it feels like our mothers don’t want us to be together,” she sobs.

Watch Extreme Tribe: The Last Pygmies Monday, 9pm, Channel 4.

 

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