Water Victory in Botswana’s Kalahari

Access to water is one of the most pressing, if not THE most pressing issues affecting millions–all other health issues are secondary if there is no water to drink. In Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, the indigenous Bushmen tribe has been denied access to ancestral lands and one of their only sources of drinking water…by the country’s government. In 2002 the Bushmen were forcibly evicted and blocked from the borehole they had dug to tap ground water. They appealed the government’s actions on the basis of indigenous land rights, and in 2006 were awarded a precedent setting victory that declared their eviction was unlawful.

The government, however, continued to block their access to their homeland, and capped their well. To add insult to injury, the government drilled a new well on the property for animal use only, and then granted safari lodge rights to an upscale travel company, Wilderness Safaris, who built a luxury lodge, even with a swimming pool, while the Bushmen barely survived on rainwater and melons.

The tribe took the government to court again in 2010, but a judge ruled against them, saying that by insisting on living on their ancestral lands, they brought the trouble on themselves. Simultaneoulsy, the government has granted rights to a three-billion-dollar diamond gem mine to dig on the land, and enacted stronger practices against the tribe to keep them from hunting for food.

Just last week, an appeals court panel of five judges finally overturned the biased judge’s previous ruling, and found that:

– the Bushmen have the right to use their old borehole, which the government had banned them from using.
– the Bushmen have the right to sink new boreholes.
– the government’s conduct towards the Bushmen amounted to ‘degrading treatment’.
– the government must pay the Bushmen’s costs in bringing the appeal.

Survival International has put international attention and pressure on the government and in many ways helped precipitate the move to justice. It is worth following their work on this issue and others as the advocate for indigenous people around the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: