Government set to destroy Kalahari Bushman tribes

January 29, 2002

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The Botswana government is set to destroy the remaining Bushman communities in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It is cutting off all water to the communities this week, in an attempt to drive the Gana and Gwi Bushman tribes off the land they have lived on for thousands of years. Survival International, the worldwide organisation supporting tribal peoples, is condemning the move as placing the very survival of these tribes in danger.

The reserve was established in the 1960s on the Gana and Gwi's ancestral lands as a home for them. But over the last 16 years the Botswana authorities have been conducting a vigorous campaign of harassment to drive them out. Bushmen have been tortured for hunting, their homes have been bulldozed, and many have been relocated to bleak 'resettlement camps', where they cannot hunt or gather and become dependent on government handouts. In the camps, boredom, alcoholism and despair set in – the Bushmen describe the camps as 'a place of death'.

Some of the Bushmen have clung on in the face of this aggression, remaining in their homes close to the 'graves of the ancestors'. Yet now the authorities have announced that their water supplies will be cut off on Thursday. The government claims it cannot afford the service. Yet it costs only US$3 per person per week; Botswana is a rich country which is now the world's biggest diamond producer; and the European Union has anyway offered to fund it. The Botswana government has so far failed to respond to the EU offer.

Many believe the reserve's rich diamond deposits are the real reason for the government's action. It also wants to open the reserve to tourism, and has a deeply racist view of the Bushmen, whom high-ranking ministers have described as 'primitive' and 'stone age creatures'. Survival's Director Stephen Corry said today, 'The Botswana government has spent 16 years harassing the Gana and Gwi Bushmen. This latest move – cutting the water – risks destroying them once and for all. The international community must speak out now to halt this racist crime against humanity.'

Click here to donate to Survival's Bushman campaign.

Click here to join Survival's letter writing campaign on behalf of Botswana's Bushmen.

Photos and footage available to the press. For more information contact Miriam Ross (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]