September 29, 2005

Botswana arrests Kalahari protestors / "Alternative Nobel Prize" for "First People of the Kalahari"

More than 20 people have been arrested at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve where the government's policy of relocating San Bushmen has sparked protests. According to President Festus Mogae's office 21 people had been arrested after a demonstration at the settlement of New Xade when they tried to force their way into the reserve, which government officials have closed citing a disease outbreak. "When the police would not let them enter the Reserve, the demonstrators broke into a riot and attacked the police with an assortment of weapons," Mogae's office claimed. "The police were forced to fire three rubber bullets, one of which hit and slightly injured one of the demonstrators." According to State media reports 28 people were arrested and remained in custody for unlawful assembly and rioting at New Xade, a settlement created by the government for some of the approximately 2,500 people relocated from the reserve over the past three years. As Mogae's office said, those arrested included Roy Sesana, a San Bushman elder and leading figure in the First People of the Kalahari, a lobby which has campaigned closely with London-based Survival International against the government and De Beers.

Critics say the government has induced the San Bushmen to move outside the reserve to free up the land for potential diamond mining. But the government and De Beers, the world's top diamond firm which co-owns the vast diamond mines that have given the country one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa, deny the relocations have anything to do with diamonds.

Five days after the arrests, it also got known that First People of the Kalahari (FPK), the grass-roots organization of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen of Botswana, won Sweden's Right Livelihood Award, known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize'. The award has been given for the Bushmen's 'resolute resistance against eviction from their ancestral lands, and for upholding the right to their traditional way of life.' (Mmegi / The Reporter, Gaborone / Survivial International, London)


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