Amnesty International Toronto Organization

Regional Meeting, October 16, 2004


The Bushmen of Botswana


The Bushmen of Botswana



(PRWEB) July 24, 2004 -- The San, or Bushmen, of Southern Africa's Kalahari are the oldest culture on the planet – dating back at least 70,000 years. Hunter-gatherers with a culture based around healing, they do not make war, and promote gender equality as part of their way of life. Yet in recent years these gentle people have been hounded almost out of existence by cattle ranching, diamond mining and cultural genocide. Today, the Bushmen stand on the edge of extinction: less than 10,000 traditional San Bushmen remain across the six countries of the Kalahari (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe , Zambia and Angola). Everywhere else they exist as serfs on other peoples' farms, often treated appallingly, or as dispossessed slum-dwellers on the edges of the Kalahari's few towns.


To make matters worse, in 2002, an estimated 1800 of these last traditional San Bushmen were forcibly evicted by the Botswanan government from that country’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), to make way for new diamond mines (the area in dispute is about the size of Switzerland). Some who resisted were beaten and tortured. Now they sit in makeshift camps outside the reserve boundaries, forbidden to hunt and gather, slipping into an inevitable cycle of alcoholism and despair. However, with the help of a human rights law firm (Chennels Albertyn, South Africa), the CKGR Bushmen have now launched a land claim against the Botswana government, which comes to court in July, 2004. Public support is desperately needed to get the message out, and to raise funds to can keep the case open until it is won.


The Court Case


The CKGR Bushmen have a strong position. The CKGR was created specifically in 1961 to protect their traditional way of life. Moreover, Botswana’s own constitution declares that any citizen may live wherever in the country he or she chooses. On top of this, in 1999 a similar land claim was won by Chennels Albertyn on behalf of the Xhomani Bushmen in neighboring South Africa – so a regional precedent exists. However, the land claim alone is not enough. Pressure must also be brought to bear on the mining companies with concessions in the CKGR – De Beers and BHP Billiton – to demand that the Botswana Government allow the CKGR Bushmen to go home, live in peace and be compensated for the inevitable disruption that mining will eventually bring. Not much to ask for, one would think.


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