Botswana’s government recently initiated a new round of forced evictions and human rights violations against the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, according to Survival International (SI), a London-based NGO that advocates for indigenous rights.
The Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for thousands of years. During the 1980s, the Botswana government designated part of their traditional living area the “Central Kalahari Game Reserve,” and in 1997, began relocating them to reservations.
For the past 19 years, several tribes have struggled to preserve their right to live and hunt in the area against what they see as aggressive governmental policies. Activists say the government’s practice of forcing Bush people onto reservations is part of an effort to eliminate them as a socio-economic group and allow for tourism and diamond mining in the reserve. Tribal-rights advocacy groups say the relocations have been accompanied by “harassment,” including the denial of basic services, such as pumped water.
According to SI, the latest wave of government persecution includes torturing Bushmen in custody, placing guards around the reserve’s perimeter to prevent relocated tribe members from returning and refusing to allow lawyers for the tribes into the reserve.
In late September, more than 20 people were arrested for attempting to deliver water to Bushmen within the reserve following its sudden closure. Botswana police acknowledged shooting rubber bullets at Bushmen peacefully protesting against the closure. A spokeswoman for the Botswana government said the arrests were made because the area is under quarantine due to animal disease.
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