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Botswana: Bushmen Condemn Mo Ibrahim

Botswana: Bushmen Condemn Mo Ibrahim

Kalahari Bushmen who were evicted from their land by the government of Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae today condemned African billionaire Mo Ibrahim and his Foundation for giving Mogae their ‘Achievement In Africa Leadership Award’. The Award will be given to Mogae at a ceremony in Alexandria, Egypt, on Saturday 15 November.

A Bushman spokesman said today, ‘We don’t think he should receive this award because of how he treated us when he was President of Botswana. He evicted us from our ancestral land and that has really affected our lives. He put us into poverty, HIV-AIDS and alcoholism.’

Festus Mogae's government evicted the Bushmen from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 2002, and banned them from hunting and gathering.

Bushman hunters were arrested and tortured; those protesting peacefully against the evictions were arrested and shot at; and at least one woman died of starvation and thirst when Mogae's government shut down the borders of the reserve.

The Bushmen filed a legal case against the government, and in 2006 the Botswana High Court declared the evictions 'unlawful and unconstitutional'. One of the judges said the government's refusal to allow the Bushmen to hunt 'was tantamount to condemning the [Bushmen] to death by starvation.'

But the government, headed by Mogae until April this year, continues to prevent the Bushmen from returning home. It refuses to let them pump water from an unused borehole in one of their communities, or to let them hunt for food.

The Botswana government is now pressing ahead with plans to mine diamonds and develop tourism on the Bushmen's land. The company Gem Diamonds plans to mine at the Bushman community of Gope, while the ‘Safari & Adventure Company’ has been awarded a tender to build a tourist lodge near the Bushman community of Molapo.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'Botswana’s most marginalised citizens, the Kalahari Bushmen, have a very different perspective on how well the country is governed from that of Africa’s elite. Their experience of Festus Mogae’s governance is one of eviction, arrest and torture. Perhaps the Mo Ibrahim Foundation should have listened to their voices before making this ill-advised choice.’

The Mo Ibrahim Prize consists of US$ 5 million over 10 years and US$ 200,000 annually for life thereafter. The committee awarding the prize included former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.


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