Bushmen leader Roy Sesana is meeting Wednesday with members of the British Parliament. The head of the group called the First People of the Kalahari is trying to win support for the return of the Bushmen to their homeland in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.
The Botswanan government had evicted the Bushmen from the Kalahari Game Reserve (KGR), but last December, they won a landmark court ruling allowing them to go home. Nevertheless, since then, the Bushmen say the Botswanan government has been blocking their return.
The group says the Botswanan government has also sponsored trips for some MPs to visit the region in attempts to win their support for the evictions. Government officials say the Bushmen were relocated for their own well-being and to benefit from development.
From London Roy Sesana discussed the main issues – through an interpreter – with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.
“The court of Botswana has affirmed our right to go back and live in our ancestral home grounds. But we’re not allowed to hunt inside our home grounds. We do not have access to water. The government is not providing any of such. And is making people going back to their homes very difficult because we’re not even allowed to bring in our goats. And some of our people who used to live in the KGR will have to have permits to go home,” he says.
As for his meeting with MPs in Westminster, Sesana says, “We will ask the British MPs to be supportive of our people and try and persuade our government to appreciate that we have problems and they should help us. And one thing is that some of the British MPs, who’ve been coming to Botswana at the invitation of our government, have been saying to the press actually supporting what the government did by evicting our people from our home grounds and taking them to resettlement camps. So, we are very unhappy about these British MPs.”
Sesana was asked what might happen if the Bushmen do not return, he says, “Our people are very, very unhappy about this situation and they’ve been crying about it…. If they do not go back home it will just add to their unhappiness. People are dying in large numbers in the resettlement camps as compared to when they were back at home…. We also have our traditional culture. It is being threatened and we fear that we might lose our culture completely.” He says that there are now Bushmen children who don’t speak they’re indigenous language.