UN report condemns Botswana’s treatment of Bushmen

March 3, 2010

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Report demands ‘urgent’ action by government over water

The UN’s top official on Indigenous rights has condemned Botswana’s continued persecution of the Bushmen in a new report.

Prof. James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous peoples, highlights the government’s harassment of the Bushmen and Bakgalagadi tribes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, who, despite winning a 2006 High Court ruling that their eviction from the reserve was unlawful, continue to face ill-treatment.

In the report Prof Anaya writes that the ‘denial of services to those currently living in the reserve does not appear to be in keeping with the spirit and underlying logic of the [2006 High Court] decision, nor with the relevant international human rights standards.’

He states that, ‘Indigenous people who have remained or returned to the reserve face harsh and dangerous conditions due to a lack of access to water, a situation that could be easily remedied by reactivating the boreholes in the reserve. The Government should reactive the boreholes or otherwise secure access to water for inhabitants of the reserve as a matter of urgent priority.’

He also notes that, ‘the Government’s position that habitation of the reserve by the Basarwa [Bushmen] and Bakgalagadi communities is incompatible with the reserve’s conservation objectives and status appears to be inconsistent with its decision to permit Gem Diamonds/Gope Exploration Company (Pty) Ltd. to conduct mining activities within the reserve, an operation that is planned to last several decades and could involve an influx of 500-1200 people to the site, according to the mining company.’

Finally he recommends that the Government should ‘fully and faithfully implement’ the 2006 High Court ruling and facilitate ‘the return of all those removed from the reserve who wish to do so, allowing them to engage in subsistence hunting and gathering in accordance with traditional practices, and providing them the same government services available to Botswanans elsewhere, including, most immediately, access to water’.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Criticism is now growing of the government’s continued, appalling refusal to allow the Bushmen access to water. It is deeply unpleasant, bullying behaviour, and shocks those who learn about it. Survival now directly reaches more than a million people and we will ensure they know about this. It’s astonishing that the government continues to behave in this way. As long as it does so, the Bushmen issue will remain a cancer at the heart of Botswana’s international reputation.’