NEWS 2005


Botswana arrests Kalahari Bushmen protestors

26 Sep 2005 14:39:56 GMT

Source: Reuters

By Tizoh Mosenyi

GABORONE, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Botswana said on Monday it had arrested more than 20 people in weekend violence at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve where the government's policy of relocating San Bushmen has sparked protests.

President Festus Mogae's office said 21 people had been arrested after a demonstration at the settlement of New Xade when they tried to force their way into the reserve, which government officials have closed citing a disease outbreak.

"When the police would not let them enter the Reserve, the demonstrators broke into a riot and attacked the police with an assortment of weapons," Mogae's office said in a statement.

"The police were forced to fire three rubber bullets, one of which hit and slightly injured one of the demonstrators."

Critics say the government has induced the San Bushmen -- some of Africa's most ancient tribes who have survived for centuries in the arid lands of the Kalahari -- to move outside the reserve to free up
the land for potential diamond mining.

But the government and De Beers, the world's top diamond firm which co-owns the vast diamond mines that have given the once poor country one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa, deny the
relocations have anything to do with diamonds.


Mogae's office said those arrested included Roy Sesana, a San Bushman elder and leading figure in the First People of the Kalahari, a lobby which has campaigned closely with London-based Survival
International against the government and De Beers. State media reported 28 people were arrested and remanded in custody for unlawful assembly and rioting at New Xade, a settlement created by the government for some of the 2,500 or so people relocated from the reserve over the past three years.

Robert Majingo, commanding officer at Ghanzi police station, said the group would appear in court.

Sesana's First People of the Kalahari helped force a series of court hearings into the relocations, but proceedings have been repeatedly adjourned due to administrative delays and problems funding the
Bushmen's legal team.

The government says that unless they move to reserves outside the reserve, San Bushmen families will miss out on the water, health and school services paid for by Botswana's new-found diamond wealth.

But it says San Bushmen who moved out of the reserve voluntarily have since moved back, taking domesticated animals and hunting dogs and even using guns and four-wheel drive vehicles to hunt -- which Survival International denies.

Botswana authorities ordered the reserve to be sealed a few weeks ago due to an outbreak of animal disease they said was spread by domestic animals, although some pro-Bushman groups have accused the government of using the disease as an excuse to bar them from the reserve.

De Beers, the world's top miner and marketer of rough diamonds and the target of Survival International's most high-profile demonstrations, says the row has nothing to do with its business, which is the mainstay of Botswana's economy.

SOURCE: Reuters