Kalahari Bushmen thrown off their land as diamond companies move in

August 18, 2003

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London, 19 August 2003: Thousands of Gana and Gwi 'Bushmen' have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), Botswana, reports The Ecologist.

In a special focus on the Bushmen's plight, the September edition of The Ecologist reveals that since 1997, the government of Botswana has been uprooting the Bushmen from their ancestral lands, and moving them to resettlement camps. Reasons given have included the Bushmen's 'development', and conservation of the area. In fact, the exact opposite is taking place. An exploration boom aimed at securing lucrative profits from the exploitation of future diamond mines on the reserve is well under, and there has been a huge increase in diamond concessions in the reserve since the Bushmen evictions. De Beers, the world's largest diamond company is one of the major players.

Botswana produced 29% of the world's diamonds by value in 2001, far more than any other country. In that year, diamond sales from Botswana amounted to $2.3 billion. This accounts for 70% of Botswana's foreign exchange earnings and 50% of government revenue. One company, Debswana (ie De Beers Botswana), which is jointly owned by the Botswana government and De Beers, controls Botwana's diamond mining industry. There is no doubt that Botswana matters to De Beers, who at present, control over 50% of the world's gem diamond production.

The Ecologist and Survival believe that the Bushmen's plight is inextricably linked to Botswana's diamond trade and indeed, the country's economy. Threats and intimidation from the police and government officials are commonplace. Hunting, the Bushmen's lifeblood has been banned. Virtually all the Bushmen now live in grim resettlement camps characterised by alcoholism, violence and despair. Only 100 still hold out in the Reserve.

Zac Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist says: The future of the Bushmen is hanging in the balance. To have any chance of survival, they need to be allowed the freedom to live the way they choose, on their own land. De Beers is the Diamond trade in Botswana, and the Diamond trade is killing this ancient culture. It's time for the company to behave responsibly and join us in our call on the Botswana government to change its policy – before it's too late.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival: The Botswana government's persecution of the Bushmen is one of the greatest crimes against Indigenous peoples today. They are kicked off the land they've lived on for thousands of years, and their way of life and culture – so attuned to the Kalahari – could not be held in more contempt. Claims that the Bushmen 'want Cadillacs like the rest of us', and that evicting the Bushmen is 'like culling elephants,' are the most absurd edicts voiced by government ministers about tribal peoples anywhere in the world. Tellingly, De Beers's directors have welcomed the evictions, and the company is now looking for significant diamond deposits inside the Bushmen's reserve.

Notes to the Editor
The Ecologist: Founded in 1970, The Ecologist is the world's most widely-read environmental magazine and has helped set environmental and green political agendas around the world. Published in four continents, The Ecologist is read by over 200,000 people in 150 countries. For comments from The Ecologist's editor, Zac Goldsmith, please contact Victoria McDougall on 00 44 (0)20 7 351 3578 or email [email protected]. The September edition of The Ecologist is available on newsstands today.