Finally, it looks like some substantial good news for Botswana's Kalahari Bushmen:
29 October 2008
BOTSWANA: BUSHMEN AND SURVIVAL FORCE DE BEERS WITHDRAWAL FROM KALAHARI RESERVE
Following pressure from Survival International, De Beers says it has stopped operations on the land of the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana because those it consulted, including Bushmen living inside the reserve, did not agree with its plan to explore for diamonds near a Bushman community.
De Beers began its latest operations in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve only last month. The company says it has no intention of carrying out any further activity there, and will not do so unless and until a sustainable, long-term management plan is agreed.
This is a huge victory for the Bushmen – but diamond mining still threatens their survival. De Beers retains a number of prospecting licences in the reserve.
Another diamond company, Gem Diamonds, is also prospecting inside the reserve. Although it claims to have some local support, it is operating while Bushmen are still being bullied and harassed and are unable to get any proper legal advice. This puts the Bushmen in no position to agree fairly to anything. Despite the Botswana High Court’s 2006 ruling affirming the Bushmen’s rights, the government is still preventing them from accessing their water borehole and forbids hunting.
Bushmen have told Survival that until all those unlawfully evicted are allowed back on their land with access to water and hunting permits, they consider diamonds mined by Gem to be tainted. One said, ‘It is a lie that Gem is doing anything for the Bushmen. They do not care about us – they only work with the government.’
Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Any talks between diamond companies and the Bushmen under current conditions make a mockery of the concept of free, prior and informed consent, which is the cornerstone of both the UN declaration on indigenous peoples and the international law.’
The president of Botswana, General Ian Khama, whose government continues to oppress the Bushmen and allow mineral prospecting on their land, is a board member of the environmental NGO, Conservation International – adding further insult to the Bushmen’s predicament.