Survival International reported last week that James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, has issued an advance report condemning Botswana’s treatment of the San. Over ten years ago, the government of that country exiled the G/wi and the G//ana, two of the San peoples, from their homes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and forced them into squalid resettlement camps, where many have since died due to poverty and diseases.
The San peoples appealed to the High Court of Botswana, which decided, in 2006, in their favor and gave them the right to return to their homes. But the government has closed the borehole that provided water to the San communities and has denied their pleas to reopen it. It has also refused to grant them permits to hunt—essentially, denying them access to food.
Prof. Anaya visited Botswana last March, reviewed the situation, and concluded that the government’s systematic harassment of the San people clearly violates the spirit of the 2006 court decision as well as international standards of human rights. He especially condemns the fact that the government denies them access to water.
Furthermore, he dismisses the government’s claim that it is only seeking to preserve the conservation objectives of the CKGR—to manage the land effectively for wildlife. The government, after all, is encouraging a large diamond-mining project in the reserve, which will have a much greater impact on the natural ecology of the desert than the traditional, small-scale, hunting, gathering, and herding of the G/wi and G//ana people, which have only minimal impacts on the ecosystem.
He urged the government to “fully and faithfully implement” the High Court ruling of 2006 and to allow all those who wish to return to their former homes to do so. It should permit the people to resume their traditional hunting and gathering, and to have the same access to water, from boreholes, that they had before they were resettled.
Mr. Anaya is an unpaid expert reporting to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This coming September he will issue his final report.