Botswana's President prejudges court case

Botswana's President Mogae told a UK audience yesterday that he would not allow the Gana and Gwi Bushmen to return to their homes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. 'I cannot allow them to go back,' he said, prejudging the Bushmen's court case currently in progress.

President Mogae also claimed that the Bushmen are allowed to hunt inside the reserve, as long as they do not use guns. In fact, Mr Mogae's government banned all hunting and gathering in the reserve following the eviction of the Bushmen in 2002. Bushmen attempting to hunt now face arrest and heavy fines.

The President gave a lecture at Sussex University on 'Botswana's experience of development.' After the lecture, he was asked about the Bushmen. 'Development' for the Bushmen, said the questioner, had meant 'relocation from their ancestral land, being taken to eviction centres that they consider places of death, alcoholism, and dependence on state handouts.'

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'It's the president's choice. If Mr Mogae won't let those Bushmen who so wish to go home, then the country's reputation will continue sliding into the dirt. The international community is not going to forget this or let it go. The president repeatedly claims his government is allowing the Bushmen to hunt in the reserve, which is just not true. The upstanding and law-abiding citizens of Botswana might take note of how their country's reputation, so carefully built over such a long time, is now collapsing. It could so easily be salvaged: just let Bushmen who want to return, do so, and hunt and gather unhindered. It would cost nothing.'

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