Botswana govt gets tougher on San tribesmen

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afrol News, 25 January - The government of Botswana is reported to have cut of water supplies to the indigenous San people of Botswana (formerly called 'Bushmen') living in the mineral rich Central Kalahari Game Reserve, urging them to relocate.

The reserve was originally created to constitute a refuge for marginalized San of Botswana, a semi-nomadic people depending on wildlife resources and extensive land areas. New resources, especially the tourism potential and diamonds, however suddenly have increased the value of these marginal lands, leading the government to pressure its sparse San population. 

On earlier occasions, the Batswana government lowered San hunting quotas to protect wildlife resources for tourists. For several years, the local San community has been urged to settle outside potential mining areas. According to human rights groups, unsustainable pressure, including torture, have been used by the government. 

When the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, measuring 51,800 square kilometres, was created in 1961, the interests of the San community were of vital importance. The - thus colonial - government guaranteed the deliverance of basic supplies. 

This week, however, the Batswana government has cut water supplies and other essential services to the San living in the reserve. According to press reports, the government says this move has nothing to do with its pressure to relocate the San community, but that it cannot afford to provide water supplies to such a vast area. 

The government in November 2001 had announced that as of January 2002, these services would only be provided "in existing settlements" within the reserve, which in fact are the relocation camps, according to San human rights organisations, who have protested this move.

Forced removals, which started in 1997, have also taken place. At one occasion, more than 2000 San were trucked out of the area and put into dysfunctional camps on the fringes of their former area. 

According to local San groups, there are now only 559 people remaining in the reserve, indicating that the government slowly is winning its war of nerves against the reserve's indigenous population. 

Sources: Based on Survival, Interworld Radio and afrol archives

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