Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Survival International targets Botswana’s largest diamond find

United Kingdom based human rights organisation Survival International is using the discovery of a 1,111 carat gem-quality stone in Botswana, the largest ever found for more than a century to ignite, its campaign against the country.

Lucara Diamond Corp last week announced the discovery of a 1,111 carat gem-quality diamond at its Karowe diamond mine which is situated close to the disputed Basarwa ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Survival International has been waging campaigns against Botswana’s diamonds and tourism industry.

After the discovery of the diamond made international headlines, Survival International’s campaign this week shifted into high gear, as the organisation accused the government of Botswana of continued ill-treatment of Basarwa. Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International this week said the media was so dazzled by this find that Botswana managed to easily hide the real victims of its diamond fever. He said Basarwa’s rights are still violated by a government that thinks itself too powerful to obey its own High Court.

“In the run-up to the 50th anniversary of its independence next year, Survival will be doing all it can to make sure the abuse of Basarwa is not forgotten in the hope that Botswana’s most dispossessed citizens will start being treated justly.”

In a statement released on Friday, Survival International said that despite ever increasing profits from multinational diamond mining operations in the country, Basarwa communities continue to suffer.

“Last week the second-largest diamond in history was discovered close to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the recognized ancestral homeland of Basarwa. 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 Basarwa’s human rights,” the organisation said.

It further said Basarwa were evicted from their land just over a decade ago. However, said Corry, they officially won the right to return to their homes in the reserve during a landmark court case in 2006. Corry added that despite the ruling a majority of Basarwa have been prevented from living in CKGR.

“For those who are there, life has been made nearly impossible. Government ministers and Mining Corporation Gem Diamonds have separately promised to create several new boreholes for water in the territory, but most Basarwa still have no access to clean drinking water,” said Survival International.

The organisation said Botswana implemented a nation-wide hunting ban in 2014, which has made life almost impossible for Basarwa.

“They face arrest, beatings and torture at the hands of paramilitary police and state-funded wildlife scouts, and are accused of “poaching” because they hunt to feed their families. This is all in spite of the 2006 ruling recognizing their right to hunt in the reserve,” said Survival.

The Botswana government, Survival International said, has declined to use the resources it derives from diamond mining to support Basarwa, instead spending lavishly on visits from foreign dignitaries, sponsored content and advertising campaigns. Next year, a Hollywood film starring British actor David Oyelowo will be released about the life of the country’s first president. Survival International said it has campaigned extensively for Basarwa’s right to live in the reserve and to be treated as human beings by their own government. However, their lawyer Gordon Bennett has been barred from the country and is therefore unable to enact legal proceedings to see that their rights are upheld, the organisation said.

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