Bushmen given 10 days to leave their reserve in Botswana

Friday, September 16, 2005

Armed police and officials entered the Central Kalahari Game Reserve on September 12, giving the Bushmen there ten days to leave. Some Bushmen are reported to have fled into the Reserve and are evading capture.

In 1996 the central government of Botswana adopted a policy of evicting the Bushmen from the Central Game Reserve, an area originally set aside for them to inhabit. A constitutional amendment is also pending in Parliament to revoke the right of Bushmen to live in the Reserve in perpetuity. The government has expressed concern with several issues surrounding their continued presence in the reserve, including the need to supply them with water, the expense of educating them and providing them with health care, and their effect on the animals in the Reserve. They also say that it is in the Bushmen's best interest to join civilized society.

Critics of the relocation, including the groups Survival International and Botswanian Centre for Human Rights, allege very different motivations. Some believe that the government is moving the Bushmen out of the region to encourage tourism and diamond mining. Others argue that the government is acting out of compassion, but is making the wrong choice; they say that the Bushmen should be left to their hunter-gatherer ways, and that attempting to integrate them into modern Botswania will destroy their identity. They also state that the resettlement camps they are placed in are in bad condition, with rampant alcoholism and prostitution.

A court case has been in progress for three years against the government for moving them out of the Reserve, and is currently being heard. In August 2005 the United Nations urged Botswana to work with the Bushman to settle the dispute. It is estimated that some 250 Bushmen remain in the Reserve, having evaded eviction or infiltrated back after having been removed.

At press time, there were six days left on the government's ultimatum.