Oli wrongly refers to little people of Africa as ‘Lilliput’

Sanjog Shiwakoti / September 8, 2021

CPN-UML chair KP Oli addressing the party’s youth in the capital on September 6. Photo: YouTube screenshot

CPN-UML Chairman and former Prime Minister KP Oli, speaking at a function organized by the party’s youth wing National Youth Federation in the capital on September 6, criticized his former party colleagues and the current government. In his almost hour-long speech, Oli took aim at the parties in the ruling alliance particularly the Madhav Nepal-led splinter group and the Maoists.

Oli said, “There’s a tribe in Africa called Lilliput. They are small people. They begin reproduction when they are seven or eight years old. By the age of 15, they become old and stop reproduction.  Most die at the age of 20, and if someone reaches 25, they would be happy just like when we turn 100 years old. [In Africa], there’s a small tribe, which is unique and is called Lilliput.”

South Asia Check examined the claim.

Oli claimed that there are little people called Lilliput in Africa. But there is no such tribe called Lilliput. Lilliput in fact is the fictional island nation in Jonathan Swift’s famous novel Gulliver’s Travels published in 1726. In the novel, Lilliput is home to tiny people called Lilliputians, who are just six inches tall. In Lilliput, it’s not only people who are short, but the whole environment and infrastructures are tiny, too. In the novel, which the British newspaper The Guardian ranked one of 100 best novels in 2013, Swift, an Irish satirist, chronicles the journey of Lemuel Gulliver, the book’s protagonist. The book doesn’t mention the Lilliputians’ biological characteristics, but describes them as smart, selfish and violent people. The novel also features Blefuscudians, inhabitants of another tiny island called Blefuscu. Blefuscudians are the enemies of Lilliputians.

Our research found that Oli’s description of the people somewhat matched the Pygmy tribes who live in Africa and Asia. Pygmies are hunter-gatherers and are around five feet tall. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the most known pygmies live in tropical Africa. They live in the jungles of central and West Africa in countries such as Cameroon, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. Their population is estimated at 120,000.

A pygmy woman with her child pictured in Ruduha village in Rwanda on July 2019. Photo: Stuart Issac Harrier on Unsplash

The life expectancy of these people is between 16 and 24 years. As they have short lifespans, their puberty starts early. The pygmies in Asia are commonly known as Negritos. Although he called the small people from Africa as ‘Lilliput’, which is a fictitious place, from his description it seems Oli was referring to the Pygmies, who reach reproductive maturity early and have short lifespans.

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