Monday, March 8, 2021

Survival International scoffs at Khama’s blacklisting

United Kingdom based human rights organisation, Survival International has scoffed at President Ian Khama’s recent decision to include the organisation in the blacklist of individuals that are “unwelcome in the country.” President Khama made the announcement in an interview with the national broadcaster, Botswana television (Btv) following reports that Survival International protesters confronted him with placards calling for boycott of the country’s tourism sector at the just ended anti-poaching conference in London.

Survival’s Basarwa campaigner Rachel Stenham told the Sunday Standard that they were aware of President Khama’s recent reaction to Survival International’s protests for the rights of the Basarwa in London.

“That Survival has been ‘blacklisted’ from Botswana comes as no surprise as several of our staff have been ‘blacklisted’ for many years now, and we saw further evidence of the government’s extreme tactics to silence the Bushmen’s supporters last year, when their long-standing lawyer Gordon Bennett was prevented from entering Botswana,” she said.

Pouring scorn on Botswana’s democratic credentials, she said, ‘what is surprising, is that Botswana continues to be heralded as a progressive democratic nation, despite the fact that it is being led by a President who blindly perseveres with a policy to wipe out the Basarwa, ignoring calls from many of his fellow Batswana,” she said.

Stenham added that Khama also ignored calls from tens of thousands of Basarwa supporters across the globe including high profile politicians, NGOs, legal institutions, and civilians. “She said Survival International will continue with its boycott of tourism to Botswana until Basarwa’s rights to live and hunt freely in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) are recognized.

On President Khama’s assertion that that should Survival International’s campaign affect the country’s economy, this could also affect the country’s programmes geared towards the same people on whose behalf Survival International is waging the campaign, Stenham dismissed the concern as a non starter. “It would be interesting to know what the social programmes for the CKGR residents are. As far as they are aware, no such programmes or services exist unless they relocate outside the reserve,” she said. Stenham said it is the Botswana Government, not Survival International that is acting to the detriment of the Basarwa.

“As we have said repeatedly, all the government has to do is respect its own laws and courts that allow the Basarwa to live and survive freely inside the CKGR. This means not harassing them on the gates, not arresting them for hunting to feed their families, not beating them up, torturing them, or intimidating them with armed guards,” she said. Stenham said Botswana Government respecting Basarwa’s land rights and implementing social programmes are not mutually exclusive.

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