IN-DEPTH

 

Message from people who have been moved against their will from Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana


09/06/2003

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 2002 have
     managed, despite ongoing hindrances by your regime, to return to
     the CKGR.
   * 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 Botswana.

Yours truly,
Roy Sesana
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 government.

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 this matter.

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