INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS FUND SUPPORTS

 

INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS FUND SUPPORTS

 

The Gana and Gwi San Bushmen of Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Gana and Gwi San Bushmen of Botswana - a 70,000 year-old culture widely regarded as the oldest on the planet - are struggling to be allowed to return to their ancestral land, Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), from which they were illegally evicted by the Botswana government in 2002.  They were placed in relocation camps to make way for new diamond mines to be exploited by Debswana, the mining company owned 50/50 by De Beers and the Botswana government.  The Bushmen, who lead a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle, have been effectively reduced to beggars. They are forbidden from returning to the CKGR, a land which they have occupied for at least 40,000 years. The CKGR was created in the early 1960s specifically to protect and preserve their culture.  Moreover, the Botswana government's own constitution states that any citizen may choose their place of residence anywhere in the country - clearly it is in violation of its own law.

It has taken until this year for the human rights lawyers representing the plight of the Gana and Gwi San Bushmen to cut through the wall of obstruction and red tape put up by the Botswana government and finally get the case to court.  In July of this year, Chennels Albertyn, a human rights law firm that won a similar land claim for the Xhomani Bushmen of South Africa in 1999, will bring a land claim for the Gana and Gwi Bushmen before that country's high court.  It will likely be a long struggle - the Xhomani land claim took five years to win.  With this in mind, the generation of funds from which to pay the human rights lawyers representing the Gana and Gwi is crucial, so that they can give priority to the case, fly in expert witnesses, and stay in the fight until it is won, no matter how many times it has to go to appeal.

The CKGR land claim must be won.  In the six countries that make up the Kalahari region of Southern Africa, there are currently fewer than 10,000 Bushmen able to pursue their traditional life on their ancestral ground.  This peace-loving culture -  they are one of the few world cultures that does not make war, actively promotes gender equality, and eschews any kind  of political structure - can be considered to be on the brink of disappearing now that 2,000 of that number has been removed.

The CKGR land claim is the first project for this fund.  As the fund grows, we will also look to fund similar indigenous land claims in the Amazon (notably Ecuador and Peru), India and Central Africa (notably Battwa, or pygmy people of the Congo and Gabon), where again, people are being displaced so that the natural wealth of their ancestral land can be exploited.

If we allow the indigenous cultures of the world to disappear, we will impoverish ourselves in ways we cannot yet imagine.  These peoples hold the key to medicinal, psychological, ecological and spiritual technologies that are only just beginning to be tapped for the greater benefit of human culture at large. They know how to live lightly and well - a skill which we in mainstream human culture have yet to learn and are in dire need of learning as the natural resources of the planet dwindle from over-exploitation.  But without legal land title and tenure these cultures are disappearing fast.  It need not happen.  Indigenous land claims are an essential first step.  Land claims must be funded.  It behooves we in the West, whose consumption of so much of the earth's resources has already caused so many cultures and environments to disappear, to offer this financial support.  The Indigenous Land Rights Fund provides a conduit by which this can happen.  Thank you for your support.

To protest to the Botswana government - send an email to mofaic.registry@gov.bw