President of Botswana in New York to promote diamonds as Bushman campaign intensifies

President Mogae of Botswana is due in New York tomorrow to promote his country’s diamonds, amid increasing concern over the eviction of the Bushmen from the Central Kalahari.

The president’s visit comes only weeks after the Bushmen wrote to Leonardo DiCaprio, star of the forthcoming film ‘The Blood Diamond’, asking for his help in their struggle to return to their land.

The letter said, ‘Friends have told us that you are in a film, ‘The Blood Diamond’, which shows how badly diamonds can hurt. We know this. When we were chased off our land, officials told us it was because of the diamond finds.’

Four Bushman human rights workers and 19 other Gana and Gwi Bushmen are due to appear in court today on charges of ‘unlawful assembly’. At the time of their arrest, police used tear gas and rubber bullets against them. The US State Department’s most recent report on Botswana criticises the authorities over this incident: ‘Police forcibly dispersed and shot rubber bullets into a demonstration led by San [Bushman] leaders… the demonstrators had conducted a peaceful protest.’

The president will address a meeting tomorrow at the Council on Foreign Relations, on the subject, ‘Diamonds for Development’. Botswana officials have ordered Botswana state media to use positive government statements when reporting the issue of the Bushmen, and have said journalists must be ‘patriots first and foremost’.

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