In Botswana, all the evidence has now been presented in the country’s longest running court case. Bushmen have sued the government to prevent their forced relocation from their traditional homeland located in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The government says the move allows the Bushmen to have access to education and health care. Critics say it’s to clear the way for diamond mining.
One of the groups supporting the Bushmen in their legal fight is Survival International. From London, Director Stephen Corry spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.
“This week saw the end of the evidence. Now what happens now is that the judges have to set a date for hearing the lawyers’ arguments. That won’t be for probably several months. And once that is concluded then we all have to sit and wait for the judgment and nobody knows when that will come,” he says.
Explaining why the trial is important, Corry says, “It reflects two very key questions. One is, can forms of development be forced on people even when they have actively chosen they don’t want it. These Bushmen people have said we wanted to carry on living as we have been living. We want to live on our ancestral land. We do not want to be forced out of those ancestral lands simply because the government says we have to be near schools and clinics. Now, of course, there are other reasons why they’re being forced out of their lands, but that is one that the government is giving. The other important reason is that it brings into question whether or not indigenous tribal peoples in Africa are going to have their land rights recognized or not. The Bushmen have been there for literally thousands of years. They were there before anybody else.”
The Survival International director says there have been similar cases regarding land rights for indigenous peoples in the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa. As the term Bushmen, Corry says it’s the most widely recognized term, albeit an imperfect one.
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