A $4.9 billion diamond mine will open on September 5 in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve of Botswana, the ancestral land of Africa’s last hunting Bushmen, exactly ten years after the Botswana government claimed there were “no plans to mine anywhere inside the reserve.”
In a statement released by Survival International, a human rights advocacy group that follows the issue closely, the Bushmen were told they had to leave the reserve soon after diamonds were discovered in the 1980s. According to the group, the Botswana government has repeatedly denied that the illegal and forced evictions of the Kalahari Bushmen – in 1997, 2002 and 2005 – were due to the rich diamond deposits. See timeline here.
In 2000, however, Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs told a Botswana newspaper, "the relocation of Basarwa (Bushmen) communities from [the Central Kalahari Game Reserve] is to pave way for a proposed Gope Diamond Mine”; and in 2002, the Bushmen told Survival International that "Foreign Minister General Merafhe went to the reserve and told us we had to be moved because of diamonds.”
SI says the government of Botswana "falsely claims that the Bushmen’s presence in the reserve is “incompatible with wildlife conservation,” while allowing a diamond mine and fracking (Ed. note: a method of extracting natural gas that involves injections of fresh water mixed with chemicals) exploration to go ahead on their land. The group said furthermore that the "sustainable methods of hunting" used by the Bushmen, "are not incompatible with wildlife conservation, contrary to government claims."
In a reference to conservation groups concerned about wildlife, a Bushman whose family was evicted 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 benefitting 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. ”
According to Survival International, the government of Botswana "continues its relentless push to drive the Bushmen out of the reserve by accusing them of “poaching” because they hunt their food. The Bushmen face arrest, beatings and torture, while fee-paying big game hunters are encouraged. 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."
In a statement released by the organization, Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said, “When the Bushmen were illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of ‘conservation’, Survival cried foul play – both we and the Bushmen believed that, in fact, diamond mining was the real motivation for kicking the tribe off their territory. Government and its cronies vigorously denied these accusations, but finally we have been proven correct. Meanwhile, organizations such as Conservation International continue to laud President Khama for his environmental credentials and turns a blind eye to his human rights abuses.”