The Bushmen are among the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa where they have been living for more than 20,000 years. Part of these hunter-gatherers was living in the Central Kalahari Nature Reserve, in Botswana, until important diamonds deposits were discovered there. In 1997 the government started to expel them, sending them into exile and forcing them into squalid resettlement camps outside their Reserve.
Since then, some went back to their Kalahari Reserve, but hunting and access to their only water hole are now denied to them. In the meantime, the authorities have allowed the building of tourist Lodges, some with swimming pool, near their village, and the only drinking water borehole allowed to them is located about a hundred kilometers outside their reserve.
Distressed to see their way of life and their habitat disappear, the Bushmen fight against these dispossessions with the support of Survival International , an international support movement to indigenous populations. They have created the “First People of the Kalahari” Organization, to defend their rights as first occupiers. In 2005, their leaders received the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, or “alternative Nobel Prize” for their “ determination to resist the eviction from their ancestral land and to maintain their traditional way of life”.
In 2007, in the trial they brought against the Botswana Government (which considers them as “primitives of the stone Age”) the Botswana High Court rendered an historical verdict considering that their eviction had been” illegal and unconstitutional”.The so-called backwardness of the Bushmen did not prevent them from using the Law to advertise their conflict and to be heard, explains Jean-Patrick Razon, Director of Survival International France. Nevertheless, even if the public opinion is aware of this injustice, the problems are still there for the Bushmen whose only hope is to live on their land; deprived of it, they will die. The Survival militants know this and continue their efforts to develop general awareness and mobilization.
In the meantime, the Bushmen have launched new legal proceedings against the government to regain their rights of access to the water well of their Reserve.