Bushmen face agonizing wait for right to water
|The Bushmen will have to wait to hear the result of their court case. |
© Survival International
A High Court judge today reserved judgement on the Kalahari Bushmen’s bid to gain access to a borehole which they rely on for water.
The Bushmen were at the Botswana High Court to hear their application for permission to use their borehole which the Botswana government has banned them from using.
The Botswana government sealed and capped the Bushmen’s borehole in 2002 when it evicted them from their ancestral lands inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The evictions were later declared illegal and unconstitutional by the High Court and hundreds of Bushmen have since returned to their lands.
However, since the ruling, the government has banned the Bushmen from accessing their borehole, forcing them to make arduous 300-mile journeys to fetch water from outside the reserve. At the same time, the government drilled new boreholes for wildlife in the reserve and allowed the opening of a Wilderness Safaris lodge
complete with bar and swimming pool for tourists. It is also poised to license Gem Diamonds to open a diamond mine on Bushman land in the reserve.
Hundreds of Bushmen have languished in resettlement camps outside the reserve where they were dumped by the government, too afraid to return to their lands without access to a regular supply of water in one of the driest regions in the world.
The government’s treatment of the Bushmen has attracted international condemnation, with the UN’s top official on indigenous peoples stating that it falls short of the ‘relevant international human rights standards’. He also noted that Bushmen in the reserve face ‘harsh and dangerous conditions due to a lack of access to water’. The US State Department also criticized the government for its ‘continued narrow interpretation of the court ruling’.
Today’s decision means an agonizing wait for the Bushmen who were forced to take legal action after repeated attempts to negotiate with the government failed. It comes as Botswana’s President, Ian Khama, travels to Chicago tomorrow to attend a board meeting of Conservation International.
Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘It’s now thirteen years since the first evictions of Bushmen from the reserve and eight years since the government illegally forced nearly all of them out and shut their water supply. Until the Bushmen are allowed access to water, we will continue to expose this grotesque human rights violation.’