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Botswana Court Declares Bushmen Eviction Unconstitutional

Botswana's top court has ruled that the so-called Bushmen of the Kalahari were illegally evicted from their ancestral land and should be allowed to return.

A three-judge panel issued a two-to-one ruling Wednesday in favor of the Bushmen, or "Basarwa," as they are formally known.

The panel said the government illegally expelled the tribe from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 2002.

The judges added that the government is not obligated to provide essential services to anyone living on the reserve.

Despite that part of the ruling, Bushmen activists were joyful at Wednesday's verdict, saying they hope to return to their land soon.

Botswana's government has argued that the eviction was necessary to improve the Bushmen's access to health care and education.

But opposition groups accuse the government of evicting the tribe so it could use the land for diamond mining instead. The government has denied that accusation.

A London-based advocacy group that helps tribal people, Survival International, Wednesday said the ruling is a victory for the Bushmen and indigenous people throughout Africa.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.