Botswana Bushmen Win Legal Rights to Land
|The San people of Botswana won the rights to their ancestral lands in a recent court case.|
The San people of Botswana, a hunter-gatherer group also known as the “Bushmen,” have won a historic court case granting them rights to ancestral lands they were driven off in 2002, the BBC reported on December 13. Botswana’s High Court ruled 2-1 that it was illegal for the government to cut the water supply to the San’s traditional homeland in the Kalahari game reserve and forcibly relocate residents to outside settlements.
The government claimed the settlements afforded tribal members better access to clinics and schools and that their presence in the reserve interfered with conservation efforts. It denied accusations that the evictions had been orchestrated to allow for diamond mining in the area.
More than 1,000 San were forcibly evicted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve four years ago, following similar relocations in previous years. Roy Sesana, the group’s leader, was seen smiling broadly after the court’s announcement and said he would return to the Kalahari “to greet his ancestors” in the next few weeks. It is unclear how many other San, sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest human group, will choose to follow him.
Gordon Bennet, the tribe’s lawyer, hopes the verdict will encourage other indigenous peoples to reclaim traditional lands. “It’s about the right of the applicants to live inside the reserve as long as they want, and that’s a marvelous victory,” Bennet said.
This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.