Ten years ago Botswana’s High Court ruled that the Central Kalahari Bushmen had been illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands. It upheld their right to live and hunt there in peace.

But Botswana’s government didn’t listen. Will it change its mind in time for the country’s fiftieth birthday?

Broken families

The majority of the Bushmen still cannot live freely in their former homeland in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Couples have been separated and children, when they turn 18, must apply for one-month permits to live with their families inside the reserve.

This has been likened to South Africa’s infamous apartheid pass laws. Unless the government changes its mind, there will be no Bushmen living in the reserve in a few generations’ time.

Botswana Bushmen, Kua Children.
© Forest Woodward / Survival, 2015

© Forest Woodward / Survival, 2015

Botswana Bushmen, Kalahari. Children of the Kua tribe.
© Forest Woodward / Survival, 2015

A death sentence

The court also ruled that banning the Bushmen in the reserve from hunting violated the country’s constitution and was “tantamount to condemning [them] to death.”

Yet despite this, the government has imposed a nationwide hunting ban, effectively leaving the Bushmen to starve. They are accused of “poaching” because they hunt to feed their families, and the government uses military technology to enforce a shoot on sight policy against hunters.

Bitter melons, a valuable source of water, growing in the Bushmen community of Metsiamenong, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, 2007.
© Dominick Tyler

© Forest Woodward / Survival, 2015

The Bushmen community of Metsiamenong in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, 2007.
© Dominick Tyler

With your help this can change

President Khama could right these wrongs with the stroke of a pen.

We know that the government is listening: it has started talking to some Bushmen, which is a good sign.

But many Bushmen fear these moves are just window-dressing to deflect criticism during the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.

Tell the government to fully uphold the Bushmen’s rights and the court ruling before it’s too late.