The war between Botswana government and Survival International took a new twist following Survival’s move to try and influence international tour operators to boycott the country’s tourism in what it termed “disgraceful treatment of the last hunting Bushmen in Africa”.
The human rights campaigner said the ‘drastic measure’ is a result of ongoing persecution of Basarwa, the country’s first inhabitants.
Survival has written letters to a number of tour operators in Africa, Europe, Asia and the USA and said it will be launching a new advertising campaign in travel magazines around the world in a move that will anger Botswana government.
The crux of the matter is that Botswana government continues to violate the 2006 High Court ruling that said Basarwa have been unlawfully removed from the CKGR, their ancestral land.
“However, defying the ruling, the government is doing its utmost to make life impossible for the Bushmen and harassment is greater than ever. Despite all CKGR Bushmen having the right to live on their land, the government has allowed the applicants of the court case to return,” said Survival in a letter to tour operators.
It said as a last resort to publisice the ongoing persecution, they are asking ‘tourists and tour operators around the world the world to boycott all travel to Botswana until the government upholds the rights” the rights of Basarwa to live freely and in peace on their ancestral land.
Survival said it will also urge over a hundred thousand supporters to join the boycott and write to Botswana’s Minister of Tourism telling him “I’m not coming to Botswana” until the harassment of the Bushmen stops,” the organisation which fights the rights of indigenous people said.
The organisation is incensed by government’s official tourism website, which describes a trip through the CKGR as ‘the experience of travelling through truly untouched wilderness’ and shows an idyllic image of Bushmen in traditional dress.
“Unsurprisingly, no mention is made of the government’s attempts to force the last hunting Bushmen out of the reserve, in the name of conservation. Botswana’s President Ian Khama is a board member of US organization Conservation International and was awarded Honorary Membership of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” it said.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said it’s particularly galling to the Bushmen’s supporters that Botswana’s president is lauded by the tourism industry when his treatment of the tribe has been described as illegal, inhuman and degrading.
“Khama’s vindictive and cruel campaign is pushing the last hunting Bushmen to the brink of survival. Our message to all conscientious travelers? Holiday elsewhere until this horrific abuse ends”.
According to Survival, the Basarwa have suffered persecution by the government for decades, and in three waves of evictions, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, they were forced out of the CKGR. But a landmark court case in 2006 restored their right to live and hunt in the reserve.
“However, the Botswana government continues to violate the High Court ruling by requiring the Bushmen to apply for permits to enter the reserve and by refusing to issue hunting permits,” it said.
Survival added that numerous Basarwa have been arrested and abused for hunting – which they rely on for their survival – and recently, the government barred the Bushman’s long-standing lawyer from Botswana where he was due to represent his clients.
The boycott was expected to kickoff during World Tourism Day.