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Botswana to Inaugurate Diamond Mine on Bushmen Ancestral Land

Sep 4, 2014 2:00 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... Survival International condemned Botswana for opening a diamond mine on Bushmen ancestral land, nearly a decade after the government stated there were no plans to mine the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The Ghaghoo diamond mine, operated by Gem Diamonds, is to be inaugurated on September 5 and is estimated to hold $4.9 billion worth of rough diamonds.

Agence France-Presse quoted Ghaghoo's spokesperson, Batlhalefi Leagajang, saying, "The official opening...is tomorrow morning. His Excellency President Ian Khama will officially open the mine."  The government added that its share of proceeds from Ghaghoo would be used to provide better schools and health facilities for Bushmen outside of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Bushmen live off what the land provides and they hunt for food. Survival International claims that the government has, for the past few years, been pushing the Bushmen off the reserve in the spirit of conservationism and, therefore, accuse the hunters of poaching.  "The Bushmen face arrest, beatings and torture, while fee-paying big game hunters are encouraged," according to Survival International's director, Stephen Corry. "The government has also refused to reopen the Bushmen’s water wells, restricted their free movement into and out of the reserve and barred their lawyer from entering the country."

Corry added that with Ghaghoo opening, "Botswana’s commitment to conservation is window dressing. The government falsely claims that the Bushmen’s presence in the reserve is incompatible with wildlife conservation, while allowing a diamond mine and fracking (hydraulic fracturing) exploration to go ahead on their land."

The human rights group also took issue with conservation groups, stating that while competing  organizations herald Botswana's president for his conservation efforts, they remain silent on the treatment of Bushmen and the mining activities underway across the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

A Bushman, whose family was allegedly evicted from the reserve, told Survival International, “This week, President Khama will open a mine in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Do those organizations who have been awarding President Khama for his work with the flora and fauna still believe he is a good example to the world? The residents of the Reserve are not benefiting anything from the mine. The only benefits go to communities living outside the reserve, while our natural resources are being destroyed. We strongly oppose the opening of the mine until the government and Gem Diamonds sit down with us and tell us what we will benefit from the mine.”

 

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Tags: Botswana, Bushmen, diamond, Fair Trade, Gem Diamonds, human rights, Jeff Miller, mining, Survival International
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