NEWS 2005

 

Release of imprisoned indigenous people from the Kalahari demanded

Botswana’s government conducts war against bush people

Göttingen, 28. September 2005

The Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) called urgently on the government of Botswana to end their "war against the bush people” in the Kalahari and to release immediately the 21 leading representatives of the indigenous people who were arrested last weekend. They wanted to return to the land of their ancestors, which now belongs to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The last remaining approximately 200 San or bush people were called on some time ago to leave the area within ten days. Those who refuse to leave must reckon with the use of force on the part of the police, who have already been sent there, and being imprisoned. In recent weeks there has been an increase in the number of conflicts.

"It is unbearable to see how Botswana criminalizes people who do not wish to give up their identity, culture and way of life” criticised the GfbV. "With the expulsion from their traditional territory one of the oldest indigenous peoples of Africa is threatened with extinction.” In a case which has now been dragging on for three years the Supreme Court of Botswana has still not made a decision on the legality of the expulsion.

For months now the security forces have been creating by intimidation and TORTURE? a climate of fear and terror among the indigenous people to make them give up their resistance against their expulsion from the reservation set up for them in the sixties in the state lying between South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The background for the expulsion is the intended exploitation of the diamonds discovered there.

The reason put forward by the government of wanting to close the reserve on account of an infectious pets’ illness is in the opinion of experts very shabby. It was in the eighties that the government began to implement massive expulsion measures against the bush people living on an area of 52,000 sq. km. Most of the approximately 500,000 San were settled in 53 resettlement villages outside the wild life reserve.

The San have already had to give up their traditional way of life as hunter- gatherers. Bush people have frequently been arrested for hunting. Indigenous people are frequently threatened by the game park keepers, they are intimidated by shots and beaten. In order to make the last San leave, no more water has been brought to them into the reserve. The electricity supply has also been cut off. Guards make sure that those who want to return to their old homeland cannot do so.

For the San however the land of their ancestors is of central importance for their culture and identity. Many of those driven out feel uprooted and fall into despair. They suffer from impoverishment or give in to alcoholism and depression. The President of Botswana. Festus Gontebanye Mogae, leaves no one in doubt that he holds the San as second class people. So the government is working on a change in the constitution with the aim of abolishing the protection of the bush people.