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24 Nov 2007 08:19
Botswana’s government denied on Friday accusations it was preventing Bushmen from returning to their ancestral lands despite a court ruling last year granting them that right.
The Bushmen, who were evicted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in 2002, have accused the government of refusing to transport them back, let them hunt or supply them with water.
“Every Bushman is free to go home. We have always made our stance clear,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Clifford Mariba.
“Those who have opted to remain at their current settlements have remained behind to enjoy a wide range of social amenities offered by the government.”
Mariba said Bushmen living in the reserve are “at liberty to make their own arrangements to bring in unlimited amounts of water”, as the court decision does not compel the government to provide it.
He also said special game licences have been issued to the hunter-gatherers.
The Bushmen were evicted from the game reserve in 2002 and placed in six settlements just outside the CKGR, but more than 200 of them then took the government to court with the assistance of British NGO Survival International.
Their attempt to return to the reserve resulted in Botswana’s longest court case to date, which ended last year when a judge ruled they were driven out of the Kalahari desert unlawfully.
The First People of the Kalahari (FPK), an NGO campaigning for the rights of the Bushmen, has previously threatened the government with a return to court if their latest demands are not met.
FPK spokesperson Roy Sesana could not be reached for comment after Friday’s government statement.
Once numbering millions, roughly 100 000 Bushmen are left in Southern Africa, with almost half of them—48 000—in Botswana.
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