Monday, May 17, 2021

Khama, British royals profiting from tourism at Basarwa’s expense-claim

Survival International this week released a strongly worded report claiming that President Ian Khama has connived with some British royals in what it calls an “illegal act in the guise of conversation” to make huge money from tourism enterprises.

The report claims that “President Khama banned hunting throughout the country in the guise of conservation-except for paid safari hunting of course; it was another illegal act in the guise of conservation.”

The report says that in March this year, Khama is due to host the second United for Wildlife meeting – a consortium of the world’s major conservation organizations, including WWF and CI.

“A British royal will doubtless turn up and join the cry against “illegal poaching.” The assembly of conservationists, who routinely violate the law in their treatment of tribal peoples, will be hosted by a president guilty of trying to eradicate Basarwa hunters. No doubt the hypocrisy will be lost in the sanctimoniousness with which the press will accord the photo ops,” states the report. The report says that the first United for Wildlife meeting, in London, was also hosted by Princes William and Harry – both had returned the previous day from hunting in Spain.

The report further states that, an avid environmentalist himself, and board member of Conservation International (CI) no less, “General Khama claims he wants to clear the zone so that the wildlife will be undisturbed.” “This is decidedly odd because the fauna has been much disturbed over the last 20 years, but not by the remaining tribes people: mining exploration continues apace and you will soon be able to buy a diamond mined from inside the so-called game reserve. Due to go on sale around Valentine’s Day, these expensive love tokens now play a part in the destruction of the last hunting Basarwa in Africa,” states the report.

The reports says that a couple of years ago, to the southwest of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve diamond mine, another Basarwa community was going to be thrown off their land because they had the temerity to remain where CI had tried to establish a new “wildlife corridor.”

“CI apparently has good policies, including having to consult the locals, so Survival International asked how it went about consulting with the Bushmen of Ranyane during its long, expensive Botswana study. Although the village is an easy four-hour drive from the nearest big town, CI admitted there had been no attempt to consult at all,” states the report.

According to the report, while conservation organizations, such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Conservation International (CI) don’t oppose fee-paying big game hunting they profit from it, even quietly whispering that it’s a vital ingredient in conservation. The report observes that kings can hunt elephants, “which we’re told are threatened,” but Basarwa can’t hunt to eat, not a single one of the plentiful antelope they’ve lived off sustainably since time immemorial. “If they’re even suspected of it, they’ll be beaten and tortured.

This has been going on for decades, as the President of Botswana, Ian Khama, has tried to force all Basarwa out of their Central Kalahari region. In 2014, he banned hunting throughout the country – except for paid safari hunting of course. It was another illegal act in the guise of conservation,” says the report. The report says senior environmentalists are not averse to having a shot themselves. “The former president of WWF-Spain – the previous king of Spain – was recently photographed in Botswana with his elephant kill. The resulting scandal forced him to step down, but only because the picture was leaked,” states the report.

Conservation, the report says, has become a commodity, raising enormous sums of money, and rewarding supporters “with an equally large feel-good factor, one that is nowhere near as straightforwardly apolitical as we are led to believe.” “Tribal victims are invariably accused of “poaching,” a term which now means any sort of hunting, including for food, with which conservationists disagree. That certainly doesn’t encompass all hunting. Many conservation organizations, including WWF, don’t oppose fee-paying big game hunting. On the contrary, they profit from it, even quietly whispering that it’s a vital ingredient in conservation,” says the report.

In an interview with Btv late last year, President Khama described Survival International as an extremist outfit never to be allowed to operate in the country. He added that the UK group should instead assist in ensuring that Basarwa embrace modernisation instead of encouraging them to stay in the far flung areas where the government struggles to provide them with amenities.

“Because of the reasons that I have mentioned, Survival International is not welcome in this country and they shouldn’t set foot in this country,” said Khama. In a statement Conservation International (CI) says contrary to recent reports, it has not been involved in the implementation of conservation corridors in Botswana since 2011. “When it was, although the Ranyane community resides within a broader study area in which CI previously focused sustainable development efforts from 2007-2011, CI had no direct engagements with the community,” says the statement.

Prior to 2011 and during its four-year initiative, CI was explicitly supportive of the San people and their rights in the region, designing projects to facilitate this goal and encouraging livelihood development. Statements otherwise about CI’s ongoing implementation of any conservation corridors in Botswana, such as the Western Kgalagadi Conservation Corridor (WKCC), are erroneous and outdated.

CI further states that prior to 2011 and beginning in 2007, with co-funding from the French Government through Fonds Francais pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM), and with strong support from the Government of Botswana, Conservation International supported the planning and design of Western Kgalagadi Conservation Corridor (WKCC) in the southwestern region of Botswana, between the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) and Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

“The focal area of the project covered almost the entire southwest quadrant of Botswana, or nearly one-quarter of its land area – among the most arid and socio-economically depressed region in the country, but also home to an incredible richness of wildlife and human culture, with the largest remaining numbers of Basarwa in the world,” says the statement.

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