Botswana: Full-scale crackdown on Bushmen: Leaders imprisoned, children arrested, resisters shot at

The leaders of the Bushman organisation First People of the Kalahari have been arrested and imprisoned.

They were among a group of 28 Bushmen, including seven children, who were seized by police as they tried to enter their ancestral homeland, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Their fate is now uncertain.

The Bushmen were attempting to highlight the plight of their relatives still inside the reserve.

With the reserve sealed off, all hunting banned, their radio transmitters confiscated, no water allowed in and armed wildlife guards in every Bushman community, those Bushmen still holding out in the reserve have little means of survival.

The last message sent by the Bushmen in the reserve read, ?They are firing over our heads, they are beating us, we don't know if we can hold out.'

At least two Bushmen have reportedly been shot at; one is recovering in hospital, and one has since been arrested.

The government has banned journalists from entering the reserve.

A group of Americans probing allegations of repression in the reserve, including the Chair of Human Rights Watch, report that they were followed, questioned, intimidated and harassed for three days by Wildlife Department officials, and finally escorted out of the reserve by armed guards.

This repression is the culmination of the government's crackdown on all Bushman resistance to their forced relocation. It comes despite the fact that the court case to establish whether the Bushmen's eviction was lawful is still going on.

Rafael Runco, Chair of Survival International, said today, ?Botswana's government seems to have gone totally off the rails. Faced with criticism from all quarters, it's simply lashing out at the easiest targets – the Bushmen who it's been persecuting for so long. What it's doing now is coming perilously close to genocide – a systematic attempt to destroy an ethnic group.'

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]