Surrounded by South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Botswana is a landlocked nation a little smaller than Texas. Covered up to 70% by the Kalahari Desert, it is one the driest places on Earth.
Good governance and fiscal management has led Botswana from being one of the continent's poorest countries (when it gained independence from Great Britain in 1966) to one of the world's fastest growing economies (with an average annual growth rate around 9 percent).
But you would be forgiven for not believing this if you visited the Bushmen of the Kalahari, who are suffering from widespread alcoholism and depression following their forced removal from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which was created to protect the traditional territory of the 5,000 Gana, Gwi and Tsila Bushmen (as well as the neighboring Bakgalagadi) -- and the ecosystem they depend on to survive.
When diamonds were discovered here in the 1980s, the Bushmen were forced out over three removals that took place in 1997, 2002 and 2005. Their homes, schools and medical clinics were dismantled. Their water supply was destroyed. They were trucked away to resettlement camps, where they have been exposed to HIV/AIDS, something entirely new to them.
In 2006, the High Court ruled that the evictions were illegal and unconstitutional, and hundreds of Bushmen have since returned to their ancestral lands. However, despite the ruling, the Botswana government banned the Bushmen from re-commissioning the pre-existing water borehole at Mothomelo.
James Anaya, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, said that the Bushmen are facing "harsh and dangerous conditions due to a lack of access to water."
"The decision condemns them to having to walk up to 380 km to fetch water in one of the driest places on earth," according to a recent email from Survival International, the only international organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide.
"Tourists to the reserve staying at Wilderness Safaris’ new lodge, however, will enjoy use of a swimming pool and bar, while Gem Diamonds’ planned mine in the reserve can use all the water it needs -- on condition none is given to the Bushmen."
"If we don’t have water," said Bushman spokesman Jumanda Gakelebone, "how are we expected to live?"
- Write a letter to the president of Botswana on behalf of the Bushmen
- Support Survival International efforts to help the Bushmen
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