Pretoria - Survival International, an international advocacy group for indigenous people, has launched a boycott of Botswana tourism from Friday, World Tourism Day, because it says the country is continuing to try to force the Bushmen off their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, while promoting the reserve as a tourist destination.
Survival said on Thursday it had urged dozens of tour operators in Africa, Europe, Asia and the US – including Trailfinders, Intrepid and Absolute Travel – to suspend their trips to Botswana “over the disgraceful treatment of the last hunting Bushmen in Africa”.
It would launch an advertising campaign in travel magazines around the world.
“Survival will also urge over 100 000 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.”
On its official tourism website, Botswana describes a trip through the reserve 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, was a board member of US organisation Conservation International and had been awarded Honorary Membership of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Survival said the Botswana government had forced the Bushmen out of the game reserve in 1997, 2002 and 2005.
A landmark court case in 2006 had 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.
“Numerous Bushmen 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.
“Botswana is also cracking down on critical voices in the media. It recently pulled an ad from UK’s Geographical magazine after it published an article critical of its treatment of the Bushmen.”
Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said on Thursday, “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 travellers? ‘Holiday elsewhere until this horrific abuse ends.’”
Independent Foreign Service