Bushmen silenced and barred from ancestral lands

The Botswana government last week denied the Gana and Gwi Bushmen still in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve their only means of communication with the outside world, and turned back Bushmen bringing them essential supplies of food and water.

Government officials seized solar powered radio transceivers, provided by Survival for the Bushman communities. They also told two Bushmen bringing food and water to the beleaguered communities, whose supplies were cut off by the the government last week, that entry to their ancestral lands was forbidden. The two were later allowed to deliver the food and water, but were told that in future they would have to have a special permit or pay to enter the reserve.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was set up in the 1960s as a home for the Gana and Gwi Bushmen, whose ancestral lands include the reserve area. Yet since the mid-1980s, the Botswana government has waged a campaign of harassment to force the Bushmen off the land that is theirs under international law. In past weeks many of the 700 Bushmen still living in the reserve in the face of this harassment have been forced to leave, and last week the government terminated supplies of water and food to those who are still resisting. By now robbing them of their radio transceivers and denying access to other Bushmen, the government will leave Bushman families who remain on their lands totally isolated and at risk from thirst and starvation.

The Botswana government claims that at $3 per person per week, the cost of providing water and other services to the Bushmen in the reserve is too high. The European Union has offered to pay, but the government has ignored the offer. Senior members of the government describe the Bushmen as 'primitive' and 'prehistoric', and this racist attitude appears to be behind their aggression. The reserve is also rich in diamonds, which many believe to be another motive in Botswana's eviction of the Bushmen.

Stephen Corry, Survival's director, said, 'Stopping them hunting, torturing them and then prosecuting the victims, cutting off their water – and pouring what reserves they had into the ground – disabling their water pump, stealing their radio transceivers, saying they cannot even enter their homeland without a special permit… this is the most concerted attack the Gana and Gwi Bushmen have ever faced. Incredibly, the government still hides behind the bare-faced lie that all this is for the Bushman's benefit – the most blatant lie in the centuries of genocide the Bushmen have faced.'

NB The names Gana and Gwi contain sounds not conveyed by this spelling, and can be written as G//ana and G/wi. Survival omits the symbols '//' and '/' as they are not understood by most people internationally.

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