Saturday, January 22, 2022

Stephen Corry lambasts Botswana Govt. at Commonwealth assembly

In a hard-hitting speech to representatives of the Commonwealth on Thursday, Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry argued that countries such as the United Kingdom, Botswana and India are not concerned about the rights of tribal peoples. He also posited that the Commonwealth’s legacy of ‘dispossession and destruction’ for millions of tribal peoples is constantly downplayed in the historical record. Corry made the accusations at ‘The Commonwealth’s First Nations: Rights, Status and Struggles in the run up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 2014′. He said the primary causes behind the increasing theft of tribal lands are, firstly, economic factors as the price of raw materials and food increases, followed by political factors- business taking over the political elite and the rich getting richer. Turning his focus on Botswana, Corry said the country is just a self-proclaimed shining example of democracy when in reality, it is another de facto one-party state also hell bent on destroying its indigenous tribes, particularly those in diamond and resource-rich areas. “Many know that the longest court case in Botswana’s history began in 2002, when the government kicked Basarwa off their land in the central Kalahari. The Basarwa were then helped by supporters of the NGO I work with, Survival International, which largely covered the huge cost of four years of ensuing legal action”, Corry reminded his audience of the legal battle between government and Basarwa. He said Basarwa won their case, finally, but then had to return repeatedly to court to reinstate their water borehole and to counter constant harassment, beatings and accusations of poaching. Corry also pointed out that Basarwa are hunter-gatherers trying to provide for themselves in a way which has underpinned their independence since forever. “Sadly, such self-sufficiency is of no value to governments: tribespeople are neither workers nor taxpayers, and so fail to contribute any money to the elite”, Corry said. He said Botswana’s reaction to their support for the Basarwa was to tell them that as the ‘old colonial masters’ it was none of their business. He said nevertheless, UK parliamentarians were funded by De Beers to fly 6,000 miles and spend a couple of hours in a ‘relocation camp’ with days off in luxury safari lodges. Corry said the parliamentarians largely read from their predictable scripts, pretending Basarwa were not forced to leave their homes and that they were better off in the new camps, even though the people themselves called them ‘places of death’. Corry also took a swipe at Ditshwanelo (Botswana centre for human rights) over what he calls “a great way to upset no one and achieve nothing, whilst appearing to be helpful”. He said Botswana’s human rights organization asked for overseas money (British High Commission was amongst those to shell out) but did nothing except endlessly call for ‘negotiations’ which were never going to happen. “Botswana now refuses entry to anyone who might investigate the situation and has even barred the Basarwa’s own lawyer from contacting his clients”, Corry said in reference to Botswana government’s recent move to deny Advocate Gordon Bennet visa entry into the country to come and represent Basarwa in their court case against government.┬á “The government of Botswana has paid London PR companies to invent reasons why Basarwa can’t have their land, and threatens magazines with withdrawing its tourist advertising if they report what is actually going on”, he said. The SI Director also said government has stolen Basarwa land and was now going to steal their culture, which is, as the Ministry of Tourism puts it, a ‘highly marketable brand icon’. “The president’s brother runs the ministry, incidentally”, Corry quipped.

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