Botswana anger at diamond boycott over Bushmen rights

Image caption,
Survival International says the Basarwa refer to the resettlement camps as "places of death"

Botswana's government has dismissed as "propaganda" a call to boycott its diamonds by Survival International over its treatment of the Basarwa Bushmen.

The campaign group said the authorities had illegally forced the Basarwa from their ancestral lands in the Kalahari to make way for diamond mining.

"Survival is on a fund-raising campaign at the expense of a whole people," the environment minister told the BBC.

Kitso Mokaila said diamonds were not the issue, but the Basarwa's welfare.

'Third-class citizens'

Survival International says services that are available in the new settlement camps had been available in the Kalahari Game Reserve before 2002 when the Basarwa were evicted.

"What we want to happen is for the government of Botswana to stop treating them like third-class citizens and to stop having what is effectively a kind of neo-colonialist attitude towards them," Survival International's director Stephen Corry told the BBC.

The campaign group added that the government was ignoring a court case four years ago which ruled the Bushmen had been illegally forced from the Kalahari Game Reserve.

But Mr Mokaila said the judgement had not resolved the dispute and the judge had pushed both parties back to the negotiating table.

These talks, mediated by the Botswana Centre for Human Rights and other non-government organisations, were still going on, he said.

"That's a process that's painfully slow but I can assure you there is great progress being made and we're hopeful that we'll arrive at some conclusion," the minister of the environment, wildlife and tourism told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

He said the government had a responsibility to ensure children of the Basarwa communities had the opportunity to go to school and access to health.

Image caption,
Botswana's government says the country's mineral wealth has benefited all its citizens

"I don't believe you would want to see your own kind living in the dark ages in the middle of nowhere as a choice, when you know that the world has moved forward and has become so technological.

"We do not want to leave any of our people behind yet in the same breath we do not want any of our people to lose their culture."

He said that Botswana prides itself on the fact that its mineral wealth had benefited everyone.

"Every mineral wealth that we have has taken all of us to school has brought in development to every level, to every community.

"Therefore I'd encourage tourists to come and see for themselves and compare with the propaganda that Survival is spewing out there."

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