Basarwa human rights activists in Botswana are to appear in court on Monday. They face up to one year in jail on charges of ‘unlawful assembly’.
According to a press statement from Survival International, the four human rights workers, along with 19 other Bushmen, were arrested in September 2005 as they attempted to take food and water to their families within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Soldiers and police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the unarmed men, women and children. The shooting was ordered by the President’s Special Adviser, Sidney Pilane.
Bushman leaders were kicked and beaten during the arrest. 28 people, including babies and children, were held in prison for four days.
Those facing jail next week include Roy Sesana, winner of the 2005 Alternative Nobel Prize. The prize was awarded to Sesana and the organisation, First People of the Kalahari, for ‘resolute resistance against eviction from their ancestral lands, and for upholding the right to their traditional way of life’.
The trial takes place as the Bushmen await judgment on their landmark case in Botswana’s High Court, in which they claim the right to return to their homes and to hunt and gather there.
The Botswana government forcefully removed almost all the Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in three evictions in 1997, 2002 and 2005.