The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Prof. S. James Anaya, concluded his nine-day visit to Botswana on Friday 27th.
Prof. Anaya was appointed by the Human Rights Council as a new Special Rapporteur for an initial period of 3 years. His visit to Botswana marked his first to Africa since his tenure in office on May 1 2008 and was undertaken at the invitation of the Government of Botswana.
During the nine-day visit, Prof. Anaya traveled to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Ghanzi, Shakawe (CKGR) and Mababe to hold discussions with government representatives, local indigenous communities and civil society groups on human rights and development issues within a framework of internationally recognized human rights standards.
The objective of the visit was to shed light on the particular challenges some of the diverse indigenous peoples of Botswana are facing. He focused on the areas of recognition and discrimination, land rights, poverty, education and language, and political participation.
During a press conference that marked the end of his trip on Friday, Prof. Anaya says he noted the various efforts by the government of Botswana to improve marginalized indigenous peoples’ access to crucial services, including health and education. He also noted that government was making attempts to create opportunities of income generation.
Anaya said that he was conscious of the government’s initiatives to eradicate discrimination in all its forms and build a society of inclusion. He added that during his consultations, he learnt that despite the efforts put in place by the government, the design and implementation of these development initiatives did not adequately take into account the language, culture, and heritage of those most affected adding that it could “perhaps hinder their ultimate success”.
His visit encompassed the settlements of Kaudwane and New Xade, where he says various communities reported struggling with relocation from the CKGR, including the Gugamma and Metsianong communities, which have remained within the CKGR despite lack of access to services, including water. He also reported that he consulted with communities in West Hanahai, Mababe, and Shaikarawe, where government and NGO-led initiatives are underway but regarded as deficient by the community members.
He also visited the relocated indigenous people of the Tsodilo Hills, the renowned heritage site. He said that the community expressed concern with having scant access to livelihood opportunities. Asked on what “livelihood opportunities” meant, he relayed that the community referred to “employment, water, and opportunities to live to support themselves, and a place to keep livestock”.
He also says he received numerous reports about challenges associated with the fulfillment of rights associated with access to health and education services. This was during his consultation with various local officials, community members and civil society groups.
Anaya said he will present the visit’s findings and key recommendations at the forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council. He also added that he intends for the visit and the elaboration of the report to create further opportunity for meaningful dialogue and exchange with the government of Botswana.