January 26, 2011
The high profile Bushman activist Jumanda Gakelebone was arrested and held overnight while travelling through his homeland in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve over the weekend. The arrest left the Bushman’s lawyer, who was in the reserve to consult his clients over a case currently before Botswana’s appeal court, stranded in the desert without a guide or translator.
Gakelebone, a member of Bushman organization First People of the Kalahari (FPK), was arrested for travelling inside the reserve without a permit. FPK has been campaigning for the Bushmen’s right to live on their ancestral land for years.
After he was released, Mr Gakelebone told Survival International, ‘[the arrest] shows the government intention. I count [the reserve] as home. That’s where I was born. I do not need a permit.’
Gakelebone was travelling through the reserve with the Bushmen’s lawyer Gordon Bennett, shortly after a crucial court hearing over the Bushmen’s right to access drinking water on their land inside the reserve. Botswana’s Court of Appeal is expected to rule on the case tomorrow.
The Bushmen were forcibly evicted from their land in the reserve in 2002, but after a four year legal battle won a landmark ruling allowing them to return. Since then the Botswana government has made life inside the reserve unbearable, banning the Bushmen from hunting or using a water borehole they had relied on for decades.
The water ban has been roundly condemned by, among others, the UN and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Recently released Wikileaks cables have revealed the US Ambassador also condemned the Botswana government’s treatment of the Bushmen.
Last week the Botswana government approved Gem Diamonds’ application to build a $3 billion mine in a Bushman community in the reserve.
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