OF BOTSWANA’S Central Kalahari Game Reserve

In 2002 the Gana and Gwi San, or bushmen resident of Botswana Central Kalahari Game reserve(CKGR) were forcibly evicted and moved to resettlement camps outside the reserve, There are several documented cases of beating and torture of the San inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve prior to the eviction. About 150 cut off, their medical services denied and they were banned from their subsistence hunting. The resulting conditions are desperate – whether inside the vast reserve (which is the size of Switzerland) and or in the resettlement camps – alcoholism, violence, despair, prostitution and HIV/AIDS are taking the inevitable toll.

In 2002, immediately after the evictions a San Human Rights organization – First People of the Kalahari – took the Botswana Government to court, rightly claiming that the eviction was illegal. Previously,, in 1951, the San had been granted rights to dwell on their land in perpetuity with the right to hunt, gather, and extract water and to graze limited numbers of livestock with in the Central Kalihari Game Reserve. The case is on going, but we expect justice not to prevail in-country. The Gwi San are already looking into the options of the international courts. This is the same litany of injustice that is prevalent for Indigenous Peoples all over the World.

It must be said that the GANA and GWI SAN look to the 61st commission on Human right to adopt measures to pressure the Botswana government to allow them to return homes. This despite the fact that a UN Special Rapporteur was sent out to assess the evictions two year ago and found the situation to be a human rights abuse of the gravest kind. In 2004, Roy Sesana, the leader of first People of the Kalahari, came to the UN in New York, supported by the Indigenous Land Rights Fund, and gave testimony to the executive of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to the extent that the situation in Botswna constitutes a cultural genocide. The Permanent Forum then pledged to arrange a follow-up and at the request of the San, wanted to have meeting with the Secretary General Kofi Anan. As of March 2005, there has been no follow- up by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

It should be noted that the central Kalahari Game Reserve represents the last area of any real size in the Kalahari region where traditional San culture still persists. If this last large domino falls, then, within a generation we can say goodbye to the oldest culture in the world.

The government claims that the San were over hunting the reserve. However, the last game census performed by the Government showed that the biomass in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve almost doubled between 1987 and 1997. It should also be noted that mere months after the eviction – the southern two thirds of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was leased out to mining companies – De Beers, Debswana and various subsidiaries of BHP Billiton.

It is imperative that the world not let the world’s oldest culture disappear, just for the sake of a few diamonds. Or, are these people disposable to the greed of the multi-national corporations and their exploitation agenda?

Presented by Pauline E. Tangiora