The group Survival International has submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Committee, accusing the Botswanan government of violating the rights of Bushmen. Survival says the Bushmen are not being allowed to hunt or bring small herds of goats onto their ancestral homeland, which is in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Kali Mercier is a spokeswoman for Survival International. From London, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about last year’s court case, which upheld the Bushmen’s rights.
“In 2002…the Bushmen were evicted from their ancestral lands and told they couldn’t hunt there. Their water supplies were thrown into the sand. They were put in resettlement camps outside the game reserve. In December of last year, the High Court of Botswana ruled that their eviction had been unlawful and the government had also unlawfully refused to let the bushmen hunt on their ancestral lands. Unfortunately, in the eight months since the high court judgment the Botswanan government has been doing what it can to stop the Bushmen going back and enjoying their lifestyles within the game reserve. We believe that’s in contravention of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights,” she says.
Describing the report given to the human rights committee, Mercier says, “The report contains a summary of the situation as it is currently, which states our concerns about how the Bushmen are being treated. Basically, they’ve been told by the government that they can’t use their water bore hole on the land. The government said it belongs to the government; you can’t use it, which makes life for the Bushmen extremely difficult. It’s a desert and there’s also a drought at the moment. They’re having to gather water on donkey back …a hundred kilometers through the hot sand…by the time they get back of course most of the water’s been drunk.
They’re also not allowed to hunt in the reserve, although the court was quite clear in saying the government acted illegally when it had tried to stop them before.” She says that 21 Bushmen were recently arrested for hunting.
Mercier says that Survival International will present its case to the committee on Monday and the Botswanan government will present theirs the next session. The government has said that it relocated the Bushmen for their own good, so they could benefit from health clinics and education. It also rejected accusations by some that the reason behind the evictions was to clear the way for diamond mining.