March 15, 2006

UN urges to reopen talks with the San

The United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has urged the Botswana government to reopen negotiations with the San community, who are contesting their relocation from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). The Geneva-based committee said it was concerned about the "discrepancy" between the information provided by the Botswana government that CKGR residents "were consulted and had agreed to their relocation outside the reserve, and persistent allegations that residents were forcibly removed".

The San were relocated to the New Xade and Kaudwane settlements outside the reserve as a result of controversial government plans to set aside the CKGR for wildlife and tourism development. Rights groups have claimed that the San community was forcibly removed from its ancestral land to make way for diamond explorations in the CKGR.

Jeff Ramsay, a spokesperson for the Botswana government, rejected the claim that "people were forcibly removed from the CKGR. The fact that the people who relocated did so voluntarily, and were compensated, is well documented". "We welcome the committee's remarks, but our fight in court continues. Our people, who still remain in the reserve, are not even allowed to hunt, making it difficult for them to survive," noted Jumanda Gakelebone of the First People of the Kalahari, a pressure group formed in the 1990s to resist the relocation. The San initiated a legal challenge in April 2002 after the relocation of 1.740 people from CKGR into the settlements of New Xade and Kaudwane in 1997. (The Mail & Guardian, South Africa)

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