19 January 2010

Botswana: Talks With Khama Are Over, Says Sesana

Roy Sesan, the leader of the First People of Kgalagari, yesterday declared that peace talks with President Ian Khama on possible resolution of their land issue are over and he is taking the war to another level.

In a telephone interview from Gantsi, Sesana told Mmegi that President Khama's talks had failed to yield any benefits and announced the bushmen - or Basarwa - are now taking the government to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), for trampling on the Bushmen's rights and ignoring the 2006 High Court order when they won the landmark case.

" We have taken the government of Botswana to Court on several occasions but court orders were not implemented," Sesana said.

" We took them to court when the wildlife officers were confiscating our livestock inside the CKGR, but some Basarwa up to now have not been compensated. We also fought in court to be allowed to hunt with permits inside the CKGR, but up to now a number of us do not have the hunting permits. We also won the land case after appeal, but the majority of us were not allowed to return."

" We are convinced we should now go back to the courtroom, but it will be a different court room, not in Botswana. We want our matter to be heard by an international court this time. It looks like when it comes to Basarwa, court is insensitive."

"We find ourselves in (Morgan) Tsvangirai's situation. He won the elections but (Robert) Mugabe wouldn't let him rule. In South Africa, when (Nelson) Mandela was eventually freed, that freedom reached everyone, even those who worked in the remotest Boer farms. But it would seem there is a different rule for Mosarwa," Sesana said.

Sesana, who won the alternative Nobel Prize in 2007, makes the latest announcement approximately two weeks after Survival International (SI) re-ignited its global anti-Botswana government campaign over the treatment of Basarwa.

In 2008 President Khama and some Cabinet ministers met with Basarwa leadership in a highly publicised event hailed as marking the end of Basarwa's relations with SI.

The meeting with Khama also came at a time when reports were rife that SI had been frustrated by Basarwa's reckless handling of financial and material resources they sourced for them from international donors and Hollywood celebrities.

However, it would seem SI's efforts to add pressure on the Botswana government to recognise Basarwa's land rights have found willing hearts among the Basarwa once again.

And it comes at a time when disillusioned Bushmen, who thought they had won a landmark land rights case in 2006, have gone back to the High Court seeking to force the government to provide them with water and other amenities inside the game reserve. The case was filed last year with the assistance of human rights lawyer, Duma Boko. When the Basarwa delegation first met Khama, Sesana was tasked to identify two representatives from each of the communities in the CKGR and surrounding settlements to constitute a team to engage in consultations with Government in order to chart a way forward in the development of a sustainable management plan for the CKGR. However, Sesana says this is where all the problems started.

He claims that due to the sparseness of the CKGR it has never been possible to consult the communities in the five settlements of Metsiamanong, Mothomela, Gugama(Kukama), Gope, and Molapo.

" How do they expect me to round all of these people on foot...some of these villages are 70km apart, and I'm supposed to walk there and convene meetings for government. It was not going to work," Sesana told Mmegi.

" In any case my people also set conditions which the government failed to meet. They wanted water so that they can come to one central place because lack of water causes them to wander all over the CKGR searching for tubers," Sesana added.

Sesana also revealed that when they met Khama in 2008 they were persuaded not to involve outsiders like SI in the matter, or the local human rights NGO, Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights.

However, the Bushmen leader says that after meeting with Khama once, the Basarwa issue was later handed over to the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila and later to Ditshwanelo, but up to now there has been no progress.

Sesana however says he was the one who initiated the much-publicised meeting. " I was actually motivated by his inaugural address when he mentioned that he would revive culture," Sesana said.

" I told him Basarwa culture was destroyed from 1997-2000 during the removals from the CKGR. I told him now I'm happy to hear that 'you want to revive culture'. I requested for our cultural homes as Basarwa, we wanted our land."

Efforts to get comments from the official mediators, Ditshwanelo, were unsuccessful at press time as its director, Alice Mogwe was said to be on leave. Ditshwanelo spokesman Peter Tshukudu is also on leave.

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