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Bushmen Want to Live in Peace on Their Land

Two Basarwa women hide from the scorching sun in Metsiamenong, a remote village in the heart of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana. (2007 file photo)
Botswana’s High Court has issued an interim injunction regarding the case between the Ranyane Bushmen of Botswana and the government. It pertains to whether or not the government can remove the Bushmen to make way for what may presumably be a wildlife corridor. Both parties are set to reconvene in court on June 18.

However, Survival International, an organization that focuses on promoting the rights of people who live in tribes, reports that the Bushmen were told on May 28, that they would be forcibly removed from their land.

The NGO said that the Ranyane Bushmen, which number only several hundred now in southern Botswana, continue to be threatened with eviction from their land. This, even after the high court ruled in 2006 that the forced removals were unlawful and unconstitutional. Bushmen have since taken the Botswana government to court several times, alleging that the government continues to harass and threaten them.

The land that the Ranyane Bushmen live on lies between the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It is also occupied by settlers and farms.

Rachel Stenham, a campaigner for Survival International, said the Bushmen have received support for their plight.

“Lots of supporters of the Bushmen have written to the government to express their opposition,” she said. “For the time being, the Ranyane Bushmen are being left alone on their land.”

Stenham said the government’s denial of threatening to remove the bushmen from their land is not borne out by the facts.

“I don’t know how the government can say there is no case, and that they are not planning to evict them when the Ranyane Bushmen are taking the government to court to stop from being removed. That’s clearly not the case,” she said.

The Survival International campaigner explained the land in question is a wildlife corridor to provide free transit for wild animals in the area.

“I suppose the reason for evicting the Bushmen is because the government claims that [by their presence in the area] they’re preventing the free passage of the animals," said Stenham.

She notes that the Bushmen have lived side by side with the wild life of Botswana for generations, and that the protection of the wildlife is merely an excuse used to evict the bushmen at the Central Kalihari Game Reserve.

Stenham said Survival International will continue to campaign for the right of the Bushmen to stay on their ancestral land. That right, she said, is supported by international law.http://-