Jan / Feb 2005
Gana fight to
retain land in Botswana
THE two Gana men never imagined
they would find themselves on other continents thousands of kilometres away
from their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in southern
Africa. But the fight to save their homelands and their people recently led
Roy Sesana and Jumanda Gakelebone to the US, Britain and Norway.
They want the world to know of the
Botswana Government’s brutal eviction of the Gana and Gwi (traditionally
known as ‘Bushmen’) from the ancestral lands they have inhabited for more
than 20,000 years. Forced into grim resettlement camps they call ‘places of
death’, about 2,500 Gana and Gwi and the neighbouring Bakgalagadi are
struggling to survive.
‘We are dying now in the
resettlement camps,’ Roy Sesana, an elder and shaman, said during his visit
to London. ‘We depended on what is on our land and we managed to survive. We
know that land. We know where our ancestors are. Now we’ve been pushed into
the hands of the Government.’ This Government, they say, has used torture
and intimidation, has banned hunting and gathering, and has shut off water
supplies in order to expel them.
But these indigenous peoples are
fighting back against the Government and the forcible relocations they
suffered in 1997 and 2002. They formed an organization to protect their
rights, the First Peoples of the Kalahari – currently chaired by Roy Sesana
– and took the Government to court. ‘We have human rights,’ says Sesana.
‘We are people. We have to be respected. No matter what kind of development,
it has to be discussed with us.’
Roy Sesana and Jumanda Gakelebone
say that it is no coincidence that the forced removals coincided with diamond
prospecting in the area. The vast grasslands of the Kalahari – the home and
hunting grounds of the Gana and Gwi – contain diamond deposits in a country
renowned as one of the world’s leading diamond producers. ‘We have been
evicted for mining concessions and tourism,’ Roy Sesana explains.
The court case reconvened in
November after being adjourned last July. The Gana and Gwi have appealed for
international support in their efforts to return to their ancestral land.
‘There is no democracy for
us,’ says Roy Sesana. ‘If there were democracy in Botswana, there would be
no need for me to sit here today and ask for your help.’
Their hopes of returning to the
Kalahari now rest on the legal challenge. ‘If we lose this case,’ says Roy
Sesana, ‘it will be the end of Bushmen and the end of the Bushman
Rosemary J Brown