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Botswana: Bush people who were moved by force demand justice

Court case against the expulsion of the native peoples from the Kalahari enters decisive phase

Bolzano/Bozen, Göttingen, 4. September 2006

Bushmen community at Gope, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana For the native peoples of the Kalahari Desert, the San, the court case against the expulsion from their homeland enters the decisive phase at the Supreme Court of Botswana on Monday. This has been pointed out by the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV). More than 240 bush people issued a summons in April 2002 against their expulsion by force from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Their expulsion from the Game Reserve aroused attention throughout the world.

"In the coming four days the San can present the arguments showing why their forced move was illegal, and that their unique culture and way of life has been destroyed.", said the GfbV Africa expert, Ulrich Delius. "If the forced move is declared illegal this will be a great victory for the indigenous peoples of Africa, whose land rights are being infringed more massively than the rights of native peoples in other continents."

"More than 20 San whose signatures are also on the summons cannot witness the end of the court case because they have since died as a result of the bad treatment in the resettlement camps", said Roy Sesana, the speaker of their self-help organisation, "First People of the Kalahari". "We hope that we shall now soon receive justice before more of us die." His organisation was marked with the Alternative Nobel Prize in the year 2005 for their non-violent protest against the compulsory resettlement.

With threats, arbitrary arrests, murders, torture and other attacks security forces and the authorities have been spreading a climate of terror among the indigenous people to make this people of gatherers and hunters leave its traditional homeland. The San have lived for 20,000 years in the Kalahari. Now they are to leave the area, which was declared a game reserve in the sixties, since the authorities fear for the stock of wild animals and the care for the native communities, which are spread out, is too expensive. Critics take it that these arguments are just a pretext for making it possible to mine diamonds in the game reserve. Environmentalists emphasise that the stock of wild animals has not decreased in the past few years.

The government has been pursuing the policy of expelling the bush people since 1986. Most of the approximately 50,000 San remaining have already been moved to 63 resettlement villages outside the Game Reserve. The San have had to give up their traditional way of life as collectors and hunters. Native people have often been arrested for hunting. In order to force the last San to go no more water has been brought to them in the Reserve since February 2002. The electricity lines have also been cut. Guards make sure that those wanting to return to their old homeland are prevented from doing so.

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