The government of Botswana has approved a diamond mine in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, ancestral lands of the Kalahari Bushmen.
This comes in the middle of the Kalahari Bushmen’s appeal against the authority’s refusal to allow them to access water in the reserve.
The US$3billion mine will be operated by Gem Diamonds and the company claims it has the support of the Bushmen.
Spokeswoman for Survival International Miriam Ross said: “The mine will use vast amounts of water, which could mean that there will be less water available for the Bushmen.
“Shockingly, the Botswana government approved the environmental impact assessment for the planned mine on the condition that Gem does not provide the Bushmen with any water.
Gana Bushman at Molapo in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
She added that Bushmen from the Gope community where the mine is to be built will be displaced. Other communities will be affected by the traffic which will disturb wildlife which the Bushman need for food.
The Bushmen were evicted from their ancestral lands in 2002 when the government created a game reserve. They were settled in government relocation camps outside the reserve.
In 2006 Botswana’s high court ruled that the evictions had been illegal and that the Bushmen could return to their lands but the government is still refusing access to a well, which they rely on for water. This is the subject of an appeal and the ruling is expected by the end of January.
Survival International has always maintained that the government wanted to force the Bushmen off their land to make way for diamond mining.
Miriam Ross said: “The Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve simply want to be able to live freely on their ancestral land, and hunt and gather there.
“Survival is calling on the Botswana government to uphold the Botswana High Court's 2006 ruling, in letter and spirit, allow the Bushmen to hunt and to access water in the reserve
“The Bushmen have not given their free, prior and informed consent to Gem's planned mine, and have had no access to independent advice about the impacts of a mine on their land. They are not therefore in a position to negotiate from a position of equality whilst some are languishing in the camps and those back in the reserve are deprived of water and hunting rights.
“Only when their rights to live on their land without persecution are upheld will they be in a position to give or withhold their consent to the mine after suitable discussions and independent advice.”
Bushmen children in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Recently released by Wikileaks, US embassy cables show that the US Ambassador to Botswana, Joseph Huggins, condemned the government’s forced eviction of the Bushmen.
He told colleagues in Washington that the Bushmen had been ‘dumped in economically absolutely unviable situations without forethought, and without follow-up support’.
(all photos are courtesy of Survival International)