The 2005 annual Human Rights report from the US State Department has criticized the government of Botswana for violating the rights of the San peoples when it evicted them from their traditional homeland in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Cultural Survival highlighted this recent development in its weekly news service on April 14. The State Department particularly condemned the sites to which the San people were exiled, which do not have enough resources for them to live on and which foster such social problems as alcoholism and unemployment.
The Department of State report does not identify the G/wi, one of the two San societies that used to live in the CKGR, by name. In describing the discrimination against indigenous people, however, it does mention the suit that the G/wi and the G//ana filed in Botswana’s highest court against the government for forcing them off their lands (see the news story about that suit in this website on January 27). Unlike the UN report on human rights abuses against the Inuit peoples of Canada, reported here last week, in which the author makes his criticism of the Canadian government’s actions fairly clear, the language of this report is far more circumspect and neutral to all parties.
The State Department report, however, does mix mild criticism in with its description of the situation facing the San. “There was societal discrimination [in Botswana] against women, persons with disabilities, persons with HIV/AIDS, and minority ethnic groups, particularly the San, who lived in remote locations where access to education, public services, employment, and land is extremely limited” (section 4). To its credit, the report does describe that government’s violation of Botswana’s constitution when it resettled the San people. While the report is careful and neutral overall, it is possible that even mild criticism by the US State Department in one of its annual human rights reports will eventually help the G/wi regain their rights to their lands.