Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Botswana is “one-party-state bent on destroying indigenous tribes”

Botswana proclaims itself as a ‘shining light of democracy’, but it is in fact a de facto one-party state, hell bent on destroying its indigenous tribes ÔÇô particularly those in diamond- and resource-rich areas.
Many will know that the longest and most expensive court case in the country’s history began in 2002 when the government kicked the Bushmen off their land in the central Kalahari. The Bushmen were helped by supporters of the NGO I work with, Survival International, which largely covered the huge cost of the ensuing legal action which ran for 4 long years.
The Bushmen won their case ÔÇô finally ÔÇô but then had to return repeatedly to court to reinstate their water borehole, and to counter constant harassment, beatings and accusations of ‘poaching’.
That of course is the term now used when hunting tribes try and provide for themselves in the self-sufficient way which has underpinned their independence since forever. Such self-sufficiency if of no value to governments, of course: tribespeople are neither workers nor taxpayers and so fail to contribute their mites to the elites’ coffers.
Botswana reaction to international support for the Bushmen’s campaign was to retort…
It’s none of your (that’s ‘our’) business… you are the old colonial masters, you no longer call the shots.
UK parliamentarians nevertheless went on De Beers funded investigative delegations, flying 6,000 miles to spend a hour or so in a ‘relocation camp’, and days off in safari lodges. They largely read their script in declaring in favour of the evictions, falsely claiming the Bushmen were not forced, and were actually better off dumped in the new camps which the Bushmen called ‘places of death’.
The supposed Botswana NGO for human rights reacted by asking for overseas money, including from the British taxpayer via the High Commission, and doing nothing except endlessly calling for ‘negotiations’ which were never going to happen. Asking for talks in such cases is a great way to upset no one and achieve nothing, whilst appearing to be helpful.
Botswana now refuses entry to anyone who might investigate all this and has even barred the Bushmen’s lawyer from reaching his clients. It has spent huge amounts on London PR companies to invent reasons why the Bushmen can’t stay on their land, and it now threatens magazines by withdrawing its tourist advertising when they report what’s going on.
Botswana of course is not alone. India now also routinely bars human rights workers, including lawyers, access to certain areas, or even to the whole country.
The collusion between British mining company, Vedanta Resources, and the local elite has created a no-go area in that part of Orissa where Vedanta has spent nearly ten years trying to bully the local tribe, the Dongria Kondh, into accepting a bauxite mine. Human rights investigators are commonly threatened by knife-wielding goons, and chased from their hotels by the police. Despite all this thuggery, the Dongria are standing firm in their rejection the mine.
So where am I heading with such a diatribe? The notion that the Commonwealth is concerned about the rights of its tribal and indigenous peoples would be a joke were the results not so tragic.
The British Empire and now Commonwealth is forged on the dispossession and destruction of millions of tribal peoples around the world. That’s one of those simple truths which have been so airbrushed from the historical record that the statement now sounds extreme and radical.
The Australian government may have offered an apology for specific incidents, but the obvious fact that the entire country was stolen from the aboriginal tribes is still not openly acknowledged in the way, say, that everyone accepts the horrors of apartheid or Nazism.
The fact that the magnificent African game parks present a fake image of ‘pristine wilderness’, when they are in reality built on the eviction, and destruction, of countless tribal and indigenous peoples, is another example.
These histories are still being repeated partly because we pretend they never happened. Surely, the truth must start being acknowledged in the schoolroom. The historical theft of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and so on by the Europeans, the theft of Botswana by incoming Bantu tribes, the theft of the game parks and conservation zones, all underpin the contemporary and ongoing British-funded theft of the Omo River in Ethiopia, and of tribal lands throughout the Commonwealth.
*This is an extract of a speech by Survival Internal Director to representatives of the Commonwealth in London on September 26, 2013.

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