Wednesday, Botswanan Bushmen leader Roy Sesana is scheduled to meet with members of the British Parliament. Sesana is seeking support for the return of his people to their ancestral lands in the Kalahari Desert.
The Bushmen had been evicted, but won a landmark court ruling last December. Despite that, they accuse the Botswanan government of blocking them from returning to their homeland.
Fiona Watson is the campaigns coordinator for Survival International. From London, she spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about Wednesday’s meeting.
“The main purpose of the meeting is to set up what’s called an All Party Parliamentary Group. That’s where you get MPs from different parties coming together to support whatever the group is. In this case it’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Tribal People. So the idea is that MPs in Westminster who are interested in the issue will get together and try and do more to support indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights around the world. And one of the key objectives is to persuade Britain and our European partner governments to sign up to the international convention on tribal and people’s rights,” she says.”
Watson says the Botswanan government has been paying for some MPs to travel to Africa to persuade them it has only the best interests of the Bushmen at heart. She says that some MPs have taken that message home and the Bushmen feel betrayed. The Botswanan government says it relocated the Bushmen to other areas so they could benefit from development.
Despite the court ruling against the government, Watson says that the government is doing all it can to block the return of the indigenous people to their land.
“The government really is not accepting the decision of the court. It’s making it as difficult as possible for Busmen to go back to their home, back to their communities inside the central Kalahari Game reserve,” she says. She adds that the British established the reserve in the 1960’s to protect the Bushmen.