Saturday, May 8, 2021

SI, FPK break ranks in latest CKGR campaign

Perhaps for the first time in the campaign to restore the full residency rights of Bushmen in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve, the First People of the Kalahari and Survival International are not marching in lockstep.

Following overtures by the government, FPK, the Bushmen lobby group advocating for the rights of CKGR residents, has been holding secret talks with the government which plans to restore basic services that were discontinued in 2001. The government wants to normalise the CKGR situation and three months ago, a high-powered delegation led by ministers Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Slumber Tsogwane (Local Government and Rural Development) and Tshekedi Khama (Environment, Wildlife and Tourism) was flown to the CKGR in three helicopters, two from the Botswana Defence Force and one from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

This happened in the middle of a tourism boycott campaign against Botswana that was launched last year by SI, a “global movement for tribal peoples’ rights” based in London. In January last year and as part of the tourism boycott, SI’s operatives targeted BTO stands at the Adventure Travel Show in London and the Fitur Travel Fair in Madrid, handing out hundreds of flyers to visitors and tourism industry professionals to draw attention to “Botswana’s persecution of Africa’s last hunting Bushmen.” Two international travel companies, Travelpickr and Horizonte Paralelo, joined the boycott, with the latter releasing a statement that said it was “deeply troubled to … learn about the degrading treatment of the Bushmen at the hands of the government.” The boycott took the form of these companies cancelling pending tour requests for Botswana as well as suspending all tours and blocking tour requests to Botswana. FPK has not expressed public support for this campaign.

Last month Gem Diamonds announced that it had unearthed the second largest gem diamond in history and acting on the conviction that the world media has been blindsided by this discovery, SI released a statement reminding everybody else about an important detail they may have forgotten.

“Botswana has been keen to publicize its considerable diamond-derived wealth to the world’s media, but coverage has so far ignored the ongoing violations of the Bushmen’s human rights. The Bushmen were evicted from their land just over a decade ago. In a landmark 2006 court case they officially won the right to return to their homes in the reserve. Despite the ruling, the majority of the tribespeople have been prevented from living there,” the statement reads.

SI statements typically quote FPK leaders (Roy Sesana or Jumanda Gakelebone) but this one didn’t. Down the road, this dissension in the ranks will dent the credibility of SI’s involvement in the CKGR campaign. Such involvement has always been validated by its cooperation with FPK.

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