Kenyan hunter-gatherers detained and questioned by Botswana authorities

November 27, 2006

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Two Ogiek hunter-gatherers visiting Botswana to investigate the situation of the Kalahari Bushmen have been detained and questioned by the authorities.

The two men, Kiplangat Cheruyot and Mpoiko Kobei, had traveled from Kenya to talk to Kalahari Bushmen now living in resettlement camps after being evicted from their ancestral lands.

After holding a press conference in the Botswanan capital, Gaborone, the men were detained at the Zimbabwean border by Botswanan officials looking for ‘the two Kenyan passport holders’. They were then questioned for an hour on who they had met, who had invited them, and if they had anything to do with Survival International.

After being released the men were dropped in the area between the Botswanan and Zimbabwean borders. Upon arriving in Zimbabwe, the police told them they were looking for ‘two escaped Kenyans’.

At their Gaborone press conference Mr Cheruyot said, ‘[The Bushmen’s] lives, culture and tradition have been disrupted through the evictions. Families have been torn apart and the conflict between the people and the government agencies has induced a state of permanent fear.’

Mr Cheruyot added, ‘Kenya fought its hunter-gatherers, mountain and forest people for decades, but the government realised its mistakes and gave Indigenous hunter-gatherer people like ours title deeds for land. They helped the people to own and manage the wildlife resources in their areas, and draw the benefits of exploitation. I am sure Botswana can learn from our experience.’

For more information contact Kiplangat Cheruyot, Ogiek People’s Development Program, +254 721 602 573

or Miriam Ross, Survival International, +44 (0)20 7687 8734 / [email protected]