Representatives from the consultancy firm Marsh Environmental Services today begin a whirlwind twelve-day consultation programme in and around the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), in Botswana. The move is part of plans to develop a $2.2 billion diamond mine within the reserve.
In what has since been ruled an unlawful and unconstitutional act, in 2002 the Botswana government removed more than 600 Bushmen from the CKGR without their consent. These evictions followed the previous removal of hundreds of Bushmen from the reserve in 1997. Although a small number have been able to return, the majority languish in resettlement camps outside the reserve. It is in these camps that most of the Bushmen will be ‘consulted’ about the mine.
The proposed mine would be built near Gope, a Bushman settlement in the reserve. If it goes ahead, it will irrevocably alter both the land and the lives of the Bushmen. Survival International does not believe that the Bushmen are in a position to give their free, prior, and informed consent to the construction of a mine in their homeland whilst they continue to be unable to access it.
The Bushmen won the right to return to their homes in the reserve in 2006, but the Botswana government has effectively prevented them from doing so by refusing to allow them to hunt in the reserve, or to reopen their old water borehole. The majority cannot even enter the reserve without first applying for a permit.
Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘It is a well recognised principle of international law that development on indigenous peoples’ land should not proceed without the free and informed consent of the indigenous communities living there. But how can the Bushmen give their consent freely when most of them cannot even live there, and those who have managed to return cannot get food or water?’
These sentiments are echoed by First People of the Kalahari (FPK), the grassroots Bushman organisation. In addition to demanding that consultations occur only after the Bushmen have been able to return to their homes in the reserve, FPK are pushing for an independent mining expert to be made available to the Bushmen, to give them impartial advice on the impact the mine would have.
For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]