Uprooting the natives: The government's relocation of the natives of the Central Kalahari Desert has run into all sorts of problems with Survival International.

Author:Simon, Chedza
Position:Around Africa: Botswana - Brief Article

It is not quite a battle royal, but the fight between Survival International, the London-based NGO that supports threatened tribal peoples worldwide, is giving the Bostwana government a lot of sleepless nights. The exchanges have become so intense that recently President Fetus Mogae charged that Survival was "a new NGO and the only issue they have is the Basarwa and the CKGR. If they drop that now, theywill cease to exist."

Survival hit back by publishing its CV, which showed that it was "established in 1969 after reports of the genocide of Brazilian Indians and has supporters in over 90 countries."

It went on: "Survival works with threatened tribal peoples in 34 countries, and works on human rights abuses involving 80 different tribes around the world. [It] has received numerous awards, including, in 1989, the prestigious 'Right Livelihood Award' also known as 'the Alternative Nobel Prize'."

So what is ruffling all these feathers?

The Botswana government wants to relocate the Basarwa, Gana and Gwi people (otherwise known by their unflattering colonial name of Bushmen) to New Xade and other similar "developed" settlements from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), in order to provide them with improved living conditions and modern amenities. At least, that is what the government says.

But Survival is against the relocation, on the grounds that the government only wants to move the people to make way for diamond mining on their ancestral land. According to Stephen Corry, director general of Survival (see his article in NA, Sept2002, p39), the government has been trying to push the Basarwa, Gina and Gwi off their land for 16 years and put them in "bleak resettlement camps described by one of them as 'places of death', where they are dependent on government handouts". "The government ignores what the people themselves are saying," adds Cony. "They want to remain on their own land, where their ancestors are buried. The government is violating their human rights by imposing on them their own plans, which the people oppose and which are proving disastrous."

But the government rejects these allegations. It says Survival is orchestrating "a blackmail" against the country. "They are saying we moved the people because we wanted to mine the diamond. That is not true," says President Mogae. "Diamond was discovered in the CKGR by the Falcon Company from Britain 22 years ago, and the idea of mining it was later discarded...

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