Finally, it looks like some substantial good news for Botswana's Kalahari Bushmen:
SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
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
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.
For some years, in this blog, I've tracked the fate of the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana. I winced at today's news that the very leader who denied them their rights has been awarded a prestigious and lucrative award for 'Achievement in African Leadership'. Apparently Botswana president Festus Mogae's success in countering corruption allowed the the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to ignore the less humanitarian side of his government, which has seen the Kalahari Bushmen hounded from their tribal lands and persecuted, even after the Botswana High Court ruled against government repression. The Foundation certainly cannot claim they were unaware of this highly-publicized persecution. Much of the credit for the publicizing can go toSurvival International. Here's their press release on today's award:
BOTSWANA: SURVIVAL DENOUNCES 'GOOD GOVERNANCE' AWARD TO MOGAE
Survival International today criticized the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for awarding its 'Achievement in African Leadership' prize to Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana who oversaw the eviction of the Kalahari Bushmen from their land.
Festus Mogae's government evicted the Bushmen from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 2002, and banned them from hunting and gathering.
Bushman hunters were arrested and tortured; those protesting peacefully against the evictions were arrested and shot at; and at least one woman died of starvation and thirst when Mogae's government shut down the borders of the reserve.
The Bushmen filed a legal case against the government, and in 2006 the Botswana High Court declared the evictions 'unlawful and unconstitutional'. One of the judges said the government's refusal to allow the Bushmen to hunt 'was tantamount to condemning the [Bushmen] to death by starvation.'
But the government, headed by Mogae until April this year, continues to prevent the Bushmen from returning home. It refuses to let them pump water from an unused borehole in one of their communities, or to let them hunt for food.
The Botswana government is now pressing ahead with plans to mine diamonds and develop tourism on the Bushmen's land.
Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'It's not that difficult to please the majority, but good governance demands respect for minorities, especially those discriminated against like the Kalahari Bushmen. President Mogae's tenure overturned decades of tacit respect for Bushman land rights. What he initiated still threatens the survival of the Bushman tribes in the central Kalahari. This prize makes a mockery of 'good governance'.'
The Mo Ibrahim Prize consists of US$5 million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter. The committee awarding the prize included former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.
Hope springs eternal but it seems likely we will soon find ourselves here in Canada with a return of the Harper government (with his muzzling of most of its elected representatives, "Harper government" is a fair description). In case you've forgotten, amidst the intensity of financial meltdown: these are the people who have the powder-puff approach to global warming. One of their prime strategies to reduce carbon emissions, especially from coal power plants, is what is called "carbon sequestration" - meaning capture and storage of the offending gas. Here's a recent, brief assessment of this technique by energy expert Richard Heinberg:
[But] is carbon capture and storage (CCS) a solution? The technology
exists only in the sense that its components have been demonstrated on
a small scale. Deploying it broadly would require the development of an
infrastructure that would require trillions of dollars of investment
and decades of work. According to Vaclav Smil of the University of
Manitoba, in a recent letter to Nature, we would need to handle a
volume of CO2 twice as large as the world’s crude oil flows just to
sequester one quarter of carbon dioxide emitted in 2005 by large
CCS is essentially a “delay and fail” strategy by the coal industry.
By selling the idea of “clean coal,” the industry delays an energy
transition away from fossil fuels, while setting itself up for an
eventual failure of the entire CCS project. By the time that the
failure is clear and obvious, there will be no alternative: the coal
plants will have been built, the money invested. We’ll burn more coal,
and to hell with the climate.
Wake up folks! Here's a level-headed perspective on the values at stake in Canada's upcoming election vote. It's serious.
As Canadians prepare to go to the polls on October 14, the question of
a majority conservative government continues to play in the minds of
voters. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated last week that Canadians
have grown more accepting of conservative ideas. Journalist and author,
Murray Dobbin, does not agree.