Kalahari Bushmen Speak Out About Their Forced Eviction From Their Botswana Homeland -

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The Bushmen of the Kalahari will be holding a press conference from 9 - 11 a.m. on Friday September 24 at the National Press Club in Washington DC to talk about their forced evictions by the Botswana Government.

Botswana’s San Bushmen are taking their government to court, to win back the right to occupy their ancestral land. The issue: forced assimilation and big business (diamonds) combine to wipe out the world’s oldest culture.

The San, or Bushmen of Botswana’s Kalahari are in trouble. In 2002, after a long struggle, their government forcibly relocated them from their ancestral homeland – the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) – ostensibly to offer them ‘development’, though large diamond concessions were granted within the CKGR before the evictions. Intimidation, beatings and documented cases of torture by government officials led up to the relocation. It has taken until this year, 2004, for the Bushmen to bring their case successfully to court. The CKGR (an area roughly the size of Switzerland) represents the last area of any real size where the San Bushman culture (which conservative estimates reckon at 70,000 years old) survives. If this case is lost, then that is it for Bushman culture.

Roy Sesana and Jumanda Gakelobone, of the San organization First People of the Kalahari (FPK) are traveling the USA coast to coast from August 26th til Sept 28th to draw attention to the issue. Apart from the press conference at Washington’s National Press Club, on Friday 24th September (9-11am) they will be speaking at events that include: Hollywood (Amnesty International Fund Raiser, hosted by Jackson Browne, Aug 27th – contact [email protected] for more details); Indian Country (staying with the Hopi tribe, Sept 14-16 and the Navajo, Sept 16-19); visiting the Human Rights Caucus (Capitol Hill Sept 23rd), the American Museum of Natural History, New York (Sept 26th 2pm, Gloria Steinem to moderate) and at the United Nations, Sept 27th. They then fly on to the UK and Europe to bring attention to the issue there. While in the USA they will be the subject of an NPR Radio Expeditions (Morning Edition) feature.

Botswana’s San Bushmen are simply asking to be given the right to go home. They have no issue with diamonds being mined in their ancestral territory – only that they be allowed to reside where they always have. Festus Mogae, Botswana’s president has declared that the CKGR Bushmen must change “or they will perish like the dodo.”

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Kim Langbecker