Loud protests at an anti-poaching conference in London today (13 February) highlighted the devastating impact of a hunting ban on Africa’s last hunting Bushmen in Botswana. Ian Khama, President of Botswana, was reported to be attending alongside Prince Charles and Prince William.
Protesters outside the ‘London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade 2014’, chanted slogans and carried placards reading ‘Botswana: Bushmen hunters are not poachers’.
Botswana is persecuting the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in the name of wildlife conservation by stopping them from hunting game. But the Bushmen pose no threat to the wildlife of the CKGR, alongside which they have lived sustainably for centuries.
Survival International, the organisation which campaigns for the rights of tribal people, says Botswana government’s hypocrisy was recently exposed by revelations that large parts of the CKGR have been leased out for fracking, and a mine by Gem Diamonds is projected to start operations inside the CKGR in October 2014.
A 2006 high court ruling confirmed the Bushmen’s right to live and hunt in the CKGR, but the government continues to intimidate, torture and arrest Bushmen for hunting. The majority of Bushmen are forced to apply for restrictive permits to enter their ancestral land in the CKGR – a policy which has been likened to the hated Pass Laws under apartheid South Africa.
A high court judge involved in the 2006 court case said that the government’s refusal to allow the Bushmen to hunt ‘was tantamount to condemning the [Bushmen] to death by starvation.’
Survival has launched a travel boycott of Botswana and an ad campaign highlighting the government’s drive to deport the Bushmen from their land. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/201090) The boycott has been supported by thousands of travelers and by celebrities Gillian Anderson, Quentin Blake, Joanna Lumley, Sophie Okonedo, and Mark Rylance.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, "President Khama should not hide the persecution of the Bushmen behind the mask of conservation. To ban the Bushmen from hunting while at the same time opening up the reserve to fracking and mining is sheer hypocrisy."