- A boycott of Botswana was launched today at the world's largest tourism fair, the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) in Berlin. The campaign by a British group aims at increasing world focus on the government of Botswana's expulsion of the indigenous San people from a wildlife reserve, but tourism experts doubt the campaign will have any effect.
The UK-based group Survival International today launched their Botswana boycott campaign, claiming to speak on behalf of the Gana and Gwi communities of the San people - formerly called "Bushmen". The activists are handing out leaflets outside the Berlin fair, asking people not to go on holiday to Botswana until the San are allowed to return to their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and to hunt and gather freely.
Representatives of the Gana and Gwi communities are currently in a legal battle with the government of Botswana, asking the courts to let them return to the desert reserve. The San communities had been evicted from the reserve - established for them by British colonial authorities in the 1950s - to give room for tourism developments and diamond explorations.
According to a statement by Survival, the group was acting in agreement with the Gana and Gwi communities, who had told the UK group that "tourism should not be developed on their land until they can go home." Potential visitors should await the current trial in Botswana.
According to the UK group, the Batswana government is already promoting the reserve as a tourist attraction. Other key tourist destinations, such as the Tsodilo Hills, famous for ancient San rock art, had also been emptied of the San communities that used to live there, Survival claims.
- Cynically, the Botswana government uses the Bushmen's hunter-gatherer way of life to promote the country to tourists, Survival said. "In fact, the Gana and Gwi were banned from hunting and gathering on their land in 2002," the group added, saying that San hunting to feed their families now face heavy fines or imprisonment. San hunters had also "been tortured," the group claims.
Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, "The Gana and Gwi are fighting for their very survival, languishing in eviction sites where they are falling victim to alcoholism, prostitution and HIV/AIDS. Please don't go on holiday to Botswana until they are allowed to go home, and write to the president to ask him to let this happen now."
Tourism experts however doubt that the campaign by Survival would have any effect on visits to Botswana. The government of Botswana mostly has managed to market the country as a stable democracy, enjoying a good international reputation. Current human rights violations against the San and the freedom of expression however could be tarnishing that reputation.
Norwegian veteran tourism expert Helge Baardseth told afrol News that he had little faith in boycott campaigns in general. Tourism, Mr Baardseth holds, only fosters an increased exchange of ideas and international friendship. It should therefore be encouraged, even to the worst kinds of dictatorships, such as Burma, Mr Baardseth says.
The government of Botswana has not commented on the anti-tourism campaign by Survival. Gaborone authorities have branded the UK group as extremist enemies of Botswana. They refuse any communication with Mr Corry, who has been declared unwanted in the country.
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