UN calls on Bots to undergo second phase of nation building


Gaborone – The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, has recommended a second phase of nation building that reflects, builds on and celebrates the rich cultural diversity of Botswana.

Shaheed, who was in the country for a human rights fact-finding mission said in her preliminary report to the government that while the use of Setswana as the national language has enabled most people in the country to communicate with each other, mother tongue education in the first years of schooling is certainly a way forward.

“The risk of further disadvantaging children in remote areas who have no or minimal exposure to Setswana in their families and communities, in particular those residing in hostels without family support systems, is significant,” she said.

“In many of the places I visited, I heard the frustration, anger, and fears expressed by people, in particular San, Hambukushu and Wayeyi communities, which stem from the lack of clear information about and understanding of the policies in place and future plans, in particular when it comes to the resolution of human – wildlife conflicts.”

The Special Rapporteur, whose mandate is to monitor the implementation of cultural rights, stressed that issues relating to the recognition of tribal communities under the Bogosi (chiefs) Act of 2008 need to be addressed.

“Unlike the eight Tswana tribes who have an automatic seat in the House of Chiefs, other communities do not,” observed Shaheed.

The UN official also noted that the adjudication system based on the Kgosi (chief) leads to the dominant tribe imposing its customary law, with a few exceptions, on all groups in a particular tribal territory in civil matters. She added that “the legacy of past violations of human rights in the distant and more recent past needs to be acknowledged and addressed if the authorities wish to engage in meaningful consultations with communities for the future”.

Shaheed said the Central Kalahari Game Reserve has been at the centre of considerable controversy since the Government decided to relocate all people (the San people) to settlements outside the reserve.

“Despite a Court ruling confirming the right of the petitioners to return to the Reserve, concerns remain regarding an overly restrictive interpretation of the ruling and the right of offspring to remain on the reserve upon attaining majority at 18 years of age. I would like the Government to clarify the matter,” she said.

Shaheed also called for more alternative spaces for people, besides the traditional spaces offered by “kgotlas” (traditional customary courts) governed by chiefs, to engage in sports and creative activities in both rural and urban centres.

“I welcome the increased number of cultural activities being promoted by the government, through numerous festivals and competitions across the country,” she said.

“I encourage the government to expand its support to non-traditional forms of cultural expression and to consider the establishment of a national arts council for the promotion and further development of art and creative industries,” said Shaheed.

However, Shaheed congratulated Botswana for its success in having the Okavango Delta included on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Specifically, she welcomed the government for its consultative process prior to the listing, as well as for the recognition of the small numbers of people who have inhabited the Delta for centuries without any significant ecological impact.

“I have been assured by the government that there will be no fencing off of the area, no eviction of local communities, and no disruption of their rights of access to natural resources,” she said. She met with government officials, chiefs, artists, academics and representatives of civil society The Special Rapporteur will develop her assessment and recommendations in a report to be presented at the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2015 in Geneva.

Government said that it will respond to the report “at a later stage.”

December 2014
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