Thursday, January 27, 2011

Botswana: Court of Appeal grants Bushmen water rights

Bushman man. Photo: Survival.
Botswana's Appeals Court has overturned a 2010 High Court decision that denied the Kalahari Bushmen the right to access water from a well on their ancestral land.

According to a Survival news release, 5 Appeals Court judges unanimously ruled amongst other things that the government's ban on access to water amounted to "degrading treatment" of the Bushmen.

The government of Botswana evicted the Bushmen from their ancestral land in 2002 after diamond deposits were discovered on the land. It was not until 2006 that a High Court ruled the eviction unlawful and unconstitutional. Although some Bushmen gradually returned to their ancestral land following the 2006 court ruling, the government continued to make life on the land difficult for the Bushmen by banning access to water on the land. The Bushmen dragged the government to court again and although a judge dismissed the case, the Bushmen pressed on with an appeal.

The Court of Appeal's decision on 27 January 2011 to uphold the Constitution and reinstate water rights of the Kalahari Bushmen is a victory for basic human rights and the rule of law.

This judgement (in pdf) comes barely a week after the government of Botswana approved the construction of a $3billion diamond mine in the disputed ancestral home of the Bushmen.

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