Government admits Bushmen drinking themselves to death

March 30, 2006

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The Botswana government has admitted that evicted Bushmen are drinking themselves to death in relocation camps.

At least fifteen Bushmen have died in just one camp this year so far. The government newspaper Daily News confirmed last week that some of these deaths were due to cirrhosis of the liver (caused by excessive alcohol consumption) and ‘consumption of illicit brew'. Other causes of death were listed as ‘cancer, respiratory diseases, malaria and heart conditions.'

In contrast to their current plight, there were no known deaths from alcohol consumption in the reserve, when the Bushmen were living on their ancestral land and drinking was rare.

In the resettlement camps, where they cannot hunt or gather food and are dependent on government ‘destitute rations', boredom and depression are rife and many Bushmen of all ages spend much of the time drinking.

The government claims in the Daily News report that its decision to move the Bushmen off their land ‘emanated from a need to ensure food security and socioeconomic advancement opportunities.'

However, Bushman organisation First People of the Kalahari said in a recent press release, ‘Our people are dying in New Xade resettlement camp… What the government says about New Xade being a place to develop the Bushmen is not the truth.'

The problems of social breakdown now afflicting the Bushmen are common amongst other Indigenous people in Australia and North America who have lost their land.

The Innu, a Canadian Indian group suffering sky-high rates of suicide and alcohol abuse, recently issued a plea to the Botswana authorities, saying, ‘Please believe us when we tell you that pressurizing people to leave their ancestral land, and moving them to new settlements to live like other Batswana, will be sentencing them not to development, but to decades of misery.'

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