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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Verdict awaited in Botswana's Bushmen land rights trial

BOTSWANA Dec 12, 2006:: Judges in Botswana’s High Court will rule Wednesday, Dec 13 on a landmark case brought by the Kalahari San Bushmen against the Botswana government.

Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone said today, ‘We Bushmen have waited so long to hear this ruling. Many of my friends have died since the case began, and will never see the day we return to our land. I am asking the judges, please, please let us go home, so that all this dying will stop.’

At least 28 of the original 239 Bushman applicants have died in government resettlement camps since the case was filed in 2002.

The court will be open to journalists and members of the public. The Bushmen are fighting for their right to live on their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and to hunt and gather freely there. They filed the case after the Botswana government evicted them from their land.

The case has been the longest and most expensive in Botswana’s legal history, despite being brought by the country’s poorest inhabitants. 135 more Bushmen have asked to be added to the original list of applicants this year.

The Bushmen recently launched a website with quotes from more than 400 Bushman adults about their wish to return to their land. Together with their children they number around 1,000 people: I Want 2 Go Home

Survival International has been a long time, key support group for the San Bushmen. They have listed summary of the history behind the court case on their site.

Spokespersons for De Beers say no mining is taking place in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and deny that the relocation is maent to clear the area for future mining operations.

"There is no connection between diamonds and the relocation of the San," De Beers says on its Web site. "What is really taking place ... is a debate on two competing models of sustainable development for the San communities."

Government spokesperson Clifford Maribe denied the allegations and said most Bushmen were happier outside the reserve. He said campaigners had romanticised the hunter gatherer lifestyle and hijacked the wishes of the majority.

"Even before the resettlements they were not living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They were growing crops and hunting with dogs, horses, and sometimes vehicles and guns bought outside the reserve," he told Reuters.

He said the reserve was a "poverty trap" for the Bushmen, who would thrive by resettling in areas where they could rear cattle and launch small-scale manufacturing businesses.

Greener News Room


Background:: GABERONE BOTSWANA - Some 200 members of the main opposition Botswana National Front march on Saturday in protest

De Beers, the world's top diamond producer, has moved hundreds of San Bushmen from their ancestral hunting grounds in the vast Central Kalahari Game Reserve, saying they must be relocated to benefit from education, water and health services.

Saturday's march came two weeks before Botswana's high court rules on a legal challenge by the Bushmen against the relocations.

None of the Bushmen, who have lived in southern Africa as hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, were in evidence among marchers in the protest, which the BNF said was held to show solidarity with them.

"We are just trying to get the message through to the government that its approach to the whole issue is ill-conceived. Basarwa (Bushmen), just like any other people in Botswana, have the right to live where they want," BNF spokesman Moeti Mhwasa told Reuters.

President Festus Mogae's government has denied charges by rights groups that it is relocating the Bushmen to free up land for potential diamond mining and that it has tortured some of those evicted.


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