UK NGO Accuses Bots of Bushmen Harassment
Gaborone – United Kingdom based non-governmental organisation, Survival International, has accused Botswana of what it termed as continued harassment of the Bushmen people of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).
According to Survival International, Botswana paramilitary police have arrested three Bushman children.
“The arrests are the latest signs of a new government policy to intimidate Bushmen who have returned to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. “The children were jailed last week for being in possession of antelope meat in the CKGR.
“All have since been released, but further reports of harassment and intimidation have surfaced, and there have been a growing number of Bushmen arrests,” Recently, wildlife scouts beat up and confiscated fruit and berries from a Bushman, Amogelang Segootsane, telling him the food is 'for animals, not humans!' He was treated at a local hospital for injuries sustained in the assault. Another Bushman told the NGO that they are “being hunted and their rights are being denied because of tourism”.
“Police are given guns to go out and hunt and arrest Bushmen gathering bush food. The Bushmen of the CKGR cannot eat, cannot drink. How will they survive without food?'
The Bushmen are becoming increasingly desperate, as the government is making their lives in the CKGR impossible. The tribe relies on hunting game and gathering wild fruit and berries for survival. In 2006, the High Court confirmed the Bushmen's right to live and hunt on their ancestral land in the CKGR, but not a single hunting licence has been issued to them since. They now risk starvation, or will be forced to rely on government hand-outs only available in the resettlement camps outside the reserve which they call 'places of death'. In November, two Bushmen were arrested and tortured for killing an antelope, and were fined US$190 each. Another four men are awaiting trial this week for hunting in the reserve.
The government has repeatedly targeted the CKGR's indigenous inhabitants, often citing wildlife conservation as its motive. Yet the Bushmen have survived for centuries alongside Botswana's game. Survival International's Director Stephen Corry said on Wednesday, that: “Conservation has long been the excuse used to terrorize the Bushmen into leaving their desert home and it's no coincidence that President Ian Khama is on the board of one of the world's largest conservation organizations, the Conservation International (CI).
Corry snapped that the Washington based, organisation obviously knows its board member's atrocious human rights record. He wanted to know whether President Khama “really believe that a few hundred Bushmen endanger the welfare of the CKGR (an area twice the size of Rwanda) more than a diamond mine?
“Who knows? The only certainty in this case is Survival's determination to do whatever it takes to back the Bushmen. Boycotts, protests, demonstrations, or supporting a court case: we will rule out none of these if this increase in harassment doesn't end now”.Government spokesperson Dr. Jeff Ramsay is quoted as saying that he does not have time for Corry and his organisation. He added that he did not want to comment on “rubbish”. Meanwhile reports here indicate that the government has given a directive to relax requirements for Bushmen (Basarwa or San) that will ease their recruitment into the army and police force. Analysts say the move is seen as a way of easing tensions between the government and the Basarwa.
In recent years, the authorities have come under heavy scrutiny from various quarters for marginalising the underprivileged communities. According to media reports in the southern African country, the Botswana Police Service has already recruited eight Basarwa who have started undergoing twelve months of training.
The Deputy Director of the Botswana Police College, Assistant Police Commissioner Boeletswe Gobotswang, confirmed the move.
“The Police Commissioner has requested that the college recruits among Basarwa community in this year’s intake to train them as police officers,” he said. He revealed that the initial agreement was that 30 Basarwa should be among the 160 constables that were required for this year by the college but due to tough competition only eight managed to qualify. He believes the move will also work positively for the force as it will help break down communication barriers in the Basarwa region. For one, said the Commissioner, there will be less “miscommunication” during investigations. The Basarwa and the Botswana government have been at loggerheads for a long time over land and resource rights issues.