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When Outcry Isn’t Enough: Why the UN Must Stop Botswana

Drastic measures have to be taken to end one of the most shameful and enduring human rights violations in recent history. Since 1996, Botswana’s crusade against the Kalahari Bushmen has been a source of international criticism for the small sub Saharan nation. After a discovery of a rare mineral deposit in the Kalahari reserve, the Bushmen have had to endure their countries illegal relocation effort.

Despite a landmark court ruling in 2006, giving the Kalahari legal right to occupy their lands, Botswana heightened its inhumane policy by denying the Kalahari access to an essential water well and allowing the construction of a luxury resort t on their land. As a result, life for the indigenous tribe’s people has become unbearable as they are denied their right to hunt and have no viable source of water.

In response, the human rights advocacy group Survival International has asserted itself as the vanguard of the movement against the treatment of Botswana’s Bushmen. They accomplished this releasing a series of press releases condemning Botswana’s government as well as the corporations that profit from Kalahari persecution. Thanks to the organizations efforts activists protested, international leaders condemned, and the world became privy to the plight of the Bushmen.

On Wednesday, Survival will continue their human rights advocacy as they call for an international boycott of diamonds from Botswana. The boycott will be coupled with protests in which letters will be given to various De Beers jewel store managers in London and San Francisco; the stores are part owned by the Botswana government. Gillian Anderson and Sophie Okonedo are just a few celebrities who have chosen to co-sign Wednesday’s event.
But Despite Survivals good intentions, how significant of an effect will tomorrow’s protests have on the thousands of Bushmen dying of thirst? Even though the actions of groups like Survival are critical for swaying public sentiment, the only organization with the efficacy to save the Kalahari is the UN.

The UN must place sanctions on the Government of Botswana for violating the countries 2006 ruling as well as the violation of international law. In July of this year, the UN adopted a resolution recognizing water as a basic human right. Botswana being a member state of the UN is in direct violation of this resolution and therefore subject to the necessary repercussions.
Even though the UN has yet to take action, they have been vocal in their disapproval of Botswana’s policy. Earlier this year, UN official James Anya blamed Botswana’s actions on problems with “respect for cultural diversity/identity, political participation and consultation, and redress for historical wrongs.”

He asked for Botswana to “strengthen and adopt new affirmative measures, consistent with universal human rights standards, to protect the rights of non-dominant indigenous groups to retain and develop the various attributes of their distinctive cultural identities, particularly those related to land rights approaches to development, and political and decision-making structures.”
Unfortunately, Government officials from Botswana are not likely to acknowledge Anya’s recommendation. The Kalahari are still cut off from their ancestral land. The Bushmen, along with a culture thousands of years old, are dying a slow death. The UN mustn’t allow the deaths of innocent people by one of its members.

Helping the Bushmen may not seem advantageous for the UN as a whole, but holding Botswana accountable for its human rights violations could change the lives for the Kalahari.

“When we hunt we are dancing and when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place and everything here gives life. We are chased off our land… This is done to us because we are Bushman people. Who are they who want to chase me from life,” asks Mogetse Kabikanyo, a Bushmen forced to leave his home and promptly died afterwards. His wife said that his heart just stopped beating.

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