A new report by Survival International, the global movement for the rights of tribal people, provides details of human rights violations against the Kalahari Busmen of Botswana.
Tension between the Kalahari Bushmen, known as Basarwa in Botswana, and the government mounted during the 1990s when authorities began forcing them to relocate from land that they are thought to have occupied for more than 20 000 years. In three waves of evictions – in 1997, 2002 and 2004 – more than 2000 Bushmen were relocated. Many now live in camps outside the reserve, but others have returned and several hundred live in a number of separate communities inside the reserve’s boundaries.
In 2006 the Bushmen challenged the evictions in the Botswana High Court, arguing that the government had acted illegally when it cut off their water supply and drove them from their ancestral land. The court upheld the Bushmen’s claim, finding that they had the right to remain in the reserve as long as they wished.
But the court ruling left the door ajar for further government harassment by finding that the authorities were “not obliged to provide basic services such as water to anyone returning to the reserve”. The state subsequently announced that it would not provide services, including health care and water, to the remaining Bushmen population. In 2011 Botswana’s Court of Appeal, the highest court, upheld the Bushmen’s right to sink boreholes.
The government’s actions have provoked widespread international protests. The United States’ department of state has labeled Botswana’s treatment of the Bushmen a “principal human rights concern”. The government has been condemned by the United Nations and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
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