Hundreds of Bushmen abused in Botswana – new report

October 9, 2014

Mogolodi Moeti is just one of hundreds of Bushmen to have suffered abuse by wildlife officers and police. He said, ‘They told me that even if they kill me no charges would be laid against them because what they were doing to me was an order from the government.’ © Survival International

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A new report from Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has revealed hundreds of cases of beatings, arrests and abuses suffered by the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana at the hands of wildlife officers and police.

The report, “They have killed me: the persecution of Botswana’s Bushmen 1992- 2014” details over 200 cases of violent abuse recorded between 1992 and 2014, including a Bushman who died after being tortured; a child shot in the stomach after his father refused police entry to his hut without a warrant; and a Bushman who was buried alive for killing an antelope.

The Bushmen were illegally evicted from their ancestral homeland in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the name of “conservation”. They are accused of “poaching” because they hunt their food, and face arrests and beatings, torture and death at the hands of wildlife officers and paramilitary police.

Xoroxloo Duxee died of dehydration in 2005. She was one of several Bushmen who managed to remain in the reserve, resisting eviction. But the government cut off any access to water for residents who refused to leave their homes. © Survival International

The U.S. State Department has labeled Botswana’s discrimination against the Bushmen a “principal human rights concern” and the government has been condemned nationally and internationally by Botswana’s High Court, the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Motswana political activist and former Robben Island prisoner Michael Dingake, the BBC’s John Simpson and many more.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was created as a ”place of sanctuary” for the Bushmen to continue their way of life as hunter-gatherers in 1961. But after diamonds were discovered in the reserve in the 1980s, the government began to force the Bushmen off their ancestral homeland.

Tribal peoples like the Bushmen are better at looking after their environment than anyone else, but Botswana’s President Ian Khama has justified their persecution in the name of “conservation”, while allowing diamond mining and fracking exploration to go ahead in the reserve.

Bushmen are calling for President Khama to uphold their right to hunt on their ancestral land. © Survival International

A 2006 High Court ruling upheld the Bushmen’s right to live and hunt inside the reserve, but the government has imposed a nationwide hunting ban, effectively starving them off their land. Meanwhile, rich trophy hunters are encouraged to hunt protected species on private game ranches.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, “All these crimes were committed in the name of ‘conservation’ but no conservation organization has stood up for the Bushmen. Now they are accused of ‘poaching’ because they hunt their food; Bushman families risk starvation to remain on their ancestral land, while the government encourages fee-paying big game hunters. NGO giant Conservation International welcomes President Khama to its board. Prince William’s anti-poaching coalition, United for Wildlife, invites him as an honored guest, and even asks him to host its next meeting, yet he is directly responsible for trying to finish off the last hunting Bushmen in Africa. Survival is fighting these abuses. It’s time the secrets of the conservation industry were exposed.”

Notes to editors:

- Download Survival’s report on the violent abuses faced by the Kalahari Bushmen (PDF, 4 MB)
- Visit Survival’s “Parks Need People” page for more examples of tribal peoples being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation”.