THE BLOG

A Letter to Ian Khama, President, Republic of Botswana

27/05/2013 20:27 BST | Updated 27/05/2013 20:27 BST

Dear President Khama,

In keeping with Botswana's commitment to democracy and human rights and respect for all its citizens predicated on equality before the law - irrespective of their ethnic background - I urge you to stop the evictions of the Bushmen of Ranyane.

These evictions constitute unlawful discrimination and threaten the lives and well being of the Bushmen.

The Ranyane Bushmen have not been given the opportunity to consult regarding these evictions nor have they provided their consent to be removed from their lands. Instead, the government has acted in a coercive way, threatening them and intimidating them, insisting that if they do not leave the government will forcibly evict them.

Such behavior on the part of the Botswana government is shameful, immoral, and illegal.

It both violates the protections provided in Bostwana's constitution to its citizens and international human rights laws and treaties to which Botswana is signatory and which it is legally obligated to uphold.

On practical grounds it will turn tourists away from Botswana. Tourists, as much as they are eager to explore Botswana's natural beauty overwhelmingly will not want to do so if the price of environmental conservation is the degradation of a thriving culture and people who form a unique and vital element of Botswana's citizenry and culture.

This is a test of your conscience and character.

Human beings are not to be bullied and threatened in order to make way for wildlife. The argument that the Bushmen must be evicted in order to protect wildlife is disingenuous and false.

It will not stand.

It besmirches the integrity of those individuals and organizations working in Botswana to protect the environment - many of whom have no desire to be complicit in violations of Botswana's laws and of international human rights law.

Environmental conservation must not come at the expense of the rights and well being of human communities with longstanding and intimate relationships with the land. The Bushmen have been and continue to be respectful stewards of Botswana's natural environment - they are its guardians and have been for many generations.

To treat them in this way is to violate not only their rights but the very integrity of environmental conservation which should never sanction discrimination against and marginalization of native peoples and does not justify human rights violations in order to protect nature.

Botswana's High Court has ruled that forced relocation of the Bushmen from their ancestral lands is 'unlawful and unconstitutional.'

Please ensure that the government respects the court and the rights of the Bushmen.

I trust that you will personally ensure that Botswana's laws, values, and the integrity of its diverse constituent peoples will be protected by your government and that the Bushmen of Ranyane will not be forcibly evicted from their lands.

Sincerely,

Noam Schimmel

To learn more about the Bushmen of Botswana and the human rights challenges they face and how you can help secure their rights please visit Survival International: www.survival-international.org