Delegation faces tough questions from the UN

The Botswana government faced tough questions from members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva on Friday over its eviction of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The committee member from Burkina Faso referred to the Bushmen as ‘discriminated against and marginalised', while the committee member from the UK told the government, ‘What disturbs many people is the spectacle of one of the great cultures of Africa being placed under severe threat.'

The committee member from India expressed his concern that members of the Bushman human rights organisation, First People of the Kalahari, had been unable to attend the committee session because their passports had been confiscated.

The Special Rapporteur of the committee, Mr Sicilianos, stated his belief that the government should not ‘prejudge' the ongoing court case in which the Bushmen are fighting the government for the right to return to their lands. He stated that the government should not continue to relocate people from their homes while the decision in the case was pending.

The committee members also expressed their concern about ill-treatment of Bushmen by police and about the recent amendment to the Botswana constitution that removed a section on Bushman rights. They called for the government to enter into real dialogue with the Bushmen about their concerns.

The Botswana government was due to respond to the Committee's questions today.

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