Government renews assault on Bushmen: Survival

Government renews assault on Bushmen: Survival

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May 20, 2009

Botswana’s government is once again threatening the Kgeikani Kweni, the First Peoples of the Kalahari.

According to a report by Survival International, yesterday, the government sent truckloads of police and wildlife scouts to their territory in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) to confiscate all of their goats.

This is quite serious since the Kgeikani rely on those goats for essential nutrients. The government still denies them access to their water borehole.

This is not the first time their goats have been seized either. It happened at least one other time, in 2002, when the government relocated about 700 Kgeikanifrom the reserve to various resettlement camps—‘to give them a better chance at surviving’, said the government at the time.

Those same goats were only just returned to the Kgeikani. And now they are gone again.

Following the first confiscation, the Kgeikani filed a lawsuit saying the government acted illegally. In December 2006 they won the judgment in what was hailed a “landmark victory” for Botswana, for Africa, and for indigenous rights everywhere.

Indeed it was. However, the government ignored the ruling and has continually denied the Kgeikani’s rights by arresting them, torturing them, and denying them access to the water borehole.

This latest infringement, according to Survival, is being pushed by officials from the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. They “have targeted the Bushmen’s small herds, apparently concerned that they do not fit in with the image of the CKGR they wish to promote. The government is promoting a scheme to build a tourist lodge near the Bushman community of Molapo in the reserve – the same community now being targeted.”

Jumanda Gakelebone, from the organization First People of the Kalahari, comments: “As Bushmen of the CKGR we were thinking that our issues with the government could be solved and come to an end. The position that the Ministry of Tourism is taking means there are no negotiations. We as Bushmen appeal to the nation of Botswana and say that the battle between the government and the Bushmen of the CKGR is starting. For two years we tried to talk with the government. Now our campaign is beginning again.”

Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, adds: “For two years the Bushmen have been trying to get the government to sit down with them and discuss their rights. So far the government’s only response has been to send in truckloads of police to take back the livestock they have only just returned. It’s hard to believe just how petty and bullying the government’s actions are. They ought to have realised by now that the Bushmen aren’t so easily bullied.’

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