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Dozens of Bushmen were evicted yesterday from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana. Police carried out the removals at gunpoint and then set fire to the Bushmen's huts.
A handful of Bushmen have resisted. The police have told them they will be killed, and are following them to prevent them hunting or gathering any food. The local District Commissioner (of the nearby town, Ghanzi) is today inside the reserve overseeing the operation. She told the Bushmen yesterday that the police will stay until every last Bushman is removed.
Information was brought out today by those evicted.
In order to avoid reprisals, Survival will no longer name individual Bushmen. One woman still inside the reserve said yesterday, 'We will not leave our ancestral lands. We will die here. If they steal my land, they just steal my life.'
Tensions in the region have been building for the last two weeks. In that time, three Bushmen have been shot and wounded by police. One was a seven-year old boy shot in the stomach as police tried to arrest his father. In separate incidents, a man was shot in the face and another in both legs as police tried to get him to confess to hunting. The police have removed all the Bushman goats under the pretext they were diseased. They have also sealed the area, forbidding any journalists from going there.
Everyone involved in the Bushmen's own organisation, First People of the Kalahari was arrested and beaten on 24 September. All are now charged with 'illegal assembly'. On the day they were released from prison the Bushmen heard that they, and their elder, Roy Sesana, had won the 2005 alternative Nobel Prize.
The Botswana government has been trying to get the Gana and Gwi Bushmen off their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve since the 1980s when diamonds were discovered. Exploration concessions leaped within a few days of the Bushmen being evicted in 2002. De Beers, which mines and sells all Botswana's diamonds, has opposed the Bushmen, welcoming the 2002 evictions and falsely accusing the Bushmen of hunting with high-powered rifles. De Beers also wrongly claims there were no Bushmen at its concession at Gope where it intends to mine.
Stephen Corry said today, 'If this is the last chapter in the 200-year old genocide of the Bushmen, then it's also the final curtain for Botswana's and De Beers's reputation. A new policy, abiding by international law and recognising Bushman land, would begin the long haul of rebuilding that reputation, but there is not the slightest sign of that happening. On the contrary, the ethnic cleansing continues, and they're now even shooting small children. Botswana's many friends must forcefully express their disgust, or suffer enduring shame.'
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