Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bushmen - the attempted genocide continues

reposted from Socialist Banner

We have posted before here about the harrassment and oppression of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa , the Bushmen . We sadly report that this is continuing .

The Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have been forced from their ancestral lands in a wave of evictions by the Botswana government. In 2006 they won an historic legal victory when Botswana's High Court ruled that their eviction was 'unlawful and unconstitutional'. Yet , since then the government has arrested more than 50 Bushmen for hunting to feed their families, and banned the Bushmen from using their water borehole during one of the fiercest droughts in years. Hundreds still languish in resettlement camps, unable or scared to return home. Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, "The Botswana government has had nearly a year to implement the court's ruling. It's now clear it has no intention of doing so..."

There are 100,000 Bushmen in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Angola. They are the indigenous people of southern Africa, and have lived there for tens of thousands of years. In the middle of Botswana lies the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a reserve created to protect the traditional territory of the 5,000 Gana, Gwi and Tsila Bushmen (and their neighbours the Bakgalagadi), and the game they depend on.
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds. In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away. There is plans for a massive diamond mine worth $2.2 billion on the Bushmen's land.

They now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government handouts. They are now gripped by alcoholism, boredom, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS. Unless they can return to their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die.

Details emerged of the torture and beating of a group of Bushmen in Kaudwane resettlement camp, Botswana. Fifteen men were arrested in late September for hunting, and at least ten of them were tortured. Police and wildlife guards took three of the men , made them run through the desert for several hours in high temperatures, following them in vehicles. They beat the three with sticks, kicked them, jumped on them and tightened car inner tubes around the necks . Another group of three were made to run through the desert in a separate incident. Other Bushmen were beaten with sticks, threatened, punched, slapped, held without food or water, and had handcuffs tightened around their wrists until they were forced to confess to hunting. A Bushman died in 2005 a few weeks after he was beaten and tortured by wildlife scouts.

Stephen Corry said , 'Botswana's police and wildlife guards have tortured or beaten at least 63 Bushmen for hunting over the past three years, and they've arrested 53 this year alone. Their policy couldn't be clearer – to terrorise the Bushmen so that they're too afraid to go home. It's a policy that is both brutal, and doomed to failure.'

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