Message from people
who have been moved against their will from Central Kalahari Game
Reserve in Botswana
Representatives of the people who have been moved against our
will, choice and consent from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
during 1997 and 2002, have consolidated this message.
We hope that this message will accompany the message of the
President of the Republic of Botswana, the Honorable Festus Mogae,
in his visit to the United Kingdom in June 2003.
To the President:
We are aware that our honorable president is visiting the United
Kingdom in his endeavor to justify to the British the removals by
his regime of /Gwii and //Gana Bushmen and other people from the
Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It is our wish that the honorable
president will not forget to tell the British that some of our
people were relocated forcibly against our choices and wishes.
The rest of the world is being told by our administration that the
relocations in the CKGR were voluntary and based on choice.
However, if this were so, we fail to understand the following:
* Why some people continue to vocally resist
relocations in all of
the Relocation Settlements despite the
allegation that they have
chosen to relocate.
* Why some people who were relocated during 1997 and
managed, despite ongoing hindrances by
your regime, to return to
* Why your regime imposes stringent measures to
prevent those who
have relocated from visiting their
families and relatives who
resisted relocation and are still living
in the CKGR.
We call upon the President to:
* Tell the British not only about people who have
chosen to relocate
from CKGR but also to talk about the
large number of us who were
relocated against our choice.
* Stop imposing stringent requirements for those of
our people who
want to go back to the reserve or those
of us who want to visit
relatives still resident in CKGR.
* Re-engage in negotiations with us, rather than try
to justify the
unjust policies of your regime to the
rest of the international
community, including the British.
We wish the president a fruitful and safe journey. We hope that
the president will also represent our interests as head of the
state of Botswana, of whom we, too, are citizens.
*To Headman Beslag accompanying the President in his trip:*
Beslag, You are our son. We respect your choice in relocating
outside CKGR, and we similarly expect that you will respect our
choice not to be relocated. We hope that being the Headman at New
Xade, you will talk about our right to choose to stay in CKGR as
much as you will talk about what you are enjoying by choosing to
relocate in New Xade.
We expect that you, Beslag, will request the State also to sponsor
an international trip for our representatives to tell the British
about our sadness as much as it has sponsored your trip to tell
the British about your happiness.
*To the British and the rest of the International Community:*
We thank you wholeheartedly for hosting and giving audience to our
honorable president and Headman Beslag. Listen to what they have
to say about people who have chosen to relocate from the CKGR, but
also please ask them about those of us who have relocated without
choosing to do so.
The rest of us cannot read nor write, we do not have money to
board a plane to come to London to tell you our story and not
theirs. We hope that you will support our struggle to be heard by
our government in Gaborone before it is too late to prevent the
total extinction of our culture.
Finally, we request you to remind our president that the
relocation problem is with his Bushmen in Botswana and not with
the British in UK. We request him to come and talk to us in
Representative of people against removals
New Xade, 04 June 2003
Bushmen who want to give up their ancestral land
Of the approximately 2,200 'Bushmen' who were evicted from their
ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana
and settled in government camps, there are some who do /not/ at
present wish to return home. These are mainly amongst those who
were moved out in 1997.
Their views are represented by the government-appointed 'chief' or
'headman' of the resettlement camp of New Xade, a young
English-speaking Bushman called Beslag, who is paid by the
Survival has never opposed the views of Bushmen who wish to be
relocated outside the reserve. So long as their choice was an
informed one, their rights have not been violated.
Survival exists to support the rights of threatened tribal peoples
– those whose rights /are/ being violated. In the case of the
Botswana Bushmen, this means all those who did not want to give up
their lands and who were /forced/ to move by threats and coercion.
Survival has received a statement from the Bushmen who were
evicted confirming that Beslag does not represent their views in
In the 19th century, it was a normal practice of British colonial
powers in Africa to coopt tribal and regional kings or chiefs
wherever possible. In cases where the native peoples had no
political leaders (which is very common amongst hunter-gatherers,
including most Bushmen, and some pastoral peoples), the invading
colonists simply created 'chiefs' by selecting men for the
position and rewarding them and their families accordingly. These
were, of course, individuals who agreed with colonial rule. By
appointing 'chiefs' or 'headmen' of the government resettlement
camps, the Botswana government is simply following a tradition
established by the British colonial authorities.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was created in 1961 as a home
for the Gana and Gwi 'Bushman' tribes so that they could continue
to live as hunter-gatherers. For 20,000 years or more the Bushmen
were the sole inhabitants of southern Africa, until the arrival of
the Bantu tribes in the region, about 1,500 years ago, followed by
white colonists several hundred years ago. The Bushmen, along with
a small number of Bakgalagadi, lived peacefully in the Reserve
until 1997, when the government forcibly removed about 1,500
people to the resettlement camps. About 700 Bushmen resisted all
attempts to evict them, until the government cut off their water
supply in February 2002, forcing most of them into the
resettlement camps. Despite having no water about 50 Bushmen
refused to leave. Since then and in spite of the intimidation of
the authorities, some Bushmen have returned to the reserve and
rebuilt their homes.
Source: Survival International