Botswana Court Grants Kalahari Bushmen Right to Water

On January 27, 2011, Botswana’s Court of Appeal reversed a ruling that denied the Kalahari Bushmen access to water on their ancestral lands. The Bushmen appealed a 2010 High Court judgment that prevented them from accessing a borehole. The new ruling not only gave the Bushmen rights to use the borehole, but also gave them the right to drill new ones and ordered the government to pay the Bushmen’s court costs.   

In 2002, the Botswana government forced the Bushmen from their lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and into what amounted to refugee camps. The Bushmen took their case to court and won a landmark ruling that gave them the right to return to their land. The government, however, worked to prevent their returning, forbidding the Bushmen access to water. In 2010, a judge upheld that policy, and it was that decision that the appeals court overturned on January 27.  

Botwana’s treatment of the Bushmen has been widely condemned by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur in Indigenous Peoples.   

Source: Survival International