NEWS 2005


'Nobel' prize for a noble people

Telegraph, UK

In the Swedish Parliament on Friday an international jury presented a Right Livelihood Award (known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize") to Roy Sesana, a Kalahari bushman who has been leading his people's fight for the right to stay in the reserve that is their ancestral homeland.

In recent months, the Botswanan government, supported by the EU and the Foreign Office, has stepped up its drive, using force and torture, to evict the last bushmen from the reserve and to herd them into the unspeakable settlement that they call "the place of death".

On his way to Stockholm I met Mr Sesana with members of the staff of Survival International, the organisation that has fought so tirelessly to bring this tragedy to the world's attention. I first met him in 1996 - the year that the Botswanan government launched its forcible eviction policy - with that great champion of the bushmen, Laurens van der Post.

As the leader of the First People of the Kalahari, Mr Sesana has matured into an impressive figure: wise, strong and humorous (with a playful gift for mimicry) but passionately eloquent about the plight of his people. I asked him, if they were free to go back to their traditional way of life, how many would return. "Many hundreds," he replied.

That the British Government is prepared to act as an apologist for this flouting of a constitutional guarantee, which was given to the bushmen when Botswana gained independence from Britain in 1966, is a cause for deep shame.