Survival International and De Beers in a war of words

Survival International, a UK-based nongovernmental organization, issued a press release Monday condemning the ‘Diamonds’ exhibition opening this week at the Natural History Museum in London and sponsored by De Beers claiming that Kalahari Bushman have been forced from their land to make way for future diamond mining for De Beers. De Beers shot back with a statement saying that the NGOs claims are “misleading and dishonest” and has demanded that the NGO provide proof of its charges.

Survival International and its supporters are planning a protest outside the exhibition’s opening night celebration on Wednesday.

“Most of the world’s quality gem diamonds come from De Beers in Botswana,” Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said in the statement. “When the Bushmen were evicted, they were told it was to make way for diamonds. How can their destruction be completely ignored by one of the world’s foremost museums without us thinking commercial sponsorship has taken precedence over objective education? It’s just another big advert for diamonds at the public’s expense and the museum should be ashamed.”

De Beers said it’s time for the NGO to back their claims.

“They (Survival International) claim, quite wrongly, that diamonds are the root cause of the relocation of Bushmen from a small area in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve,” De Beers said in a statement Tuesday. “This is absolutely not the case and Survival International knows this.”

De Beers added, “Survival International’s misleading and dishonest claims are based on supposition and hearsay. They have failed to attract any significant, internationally recognized, support from other civil society organizations, and De Beers challenges them to provide any credible evidence to support their claims.”

De Beers, in its statement says it has received assurances from the Government of Botswana that the resettlement of Bushmen is being carried out to provide welfare benefits, including health and education that are provided to the rest of country’s population.

“It has nothing whatsoever to do with diamonds and this view is confirmed by many who have visited the area, including leading members of the British Parliament,” De Beers said, adding: “Survival International’s actions have prevented any constructive dialogue between Government, local NGOs and others who represent the majority of Bushmen in Botswana. De Beers calls upon Survival International, and its director, Stephen Corry, to desist from their present, divisive campaign, based on unfounded allegations, and engage positively with interested parties to seek a secure future for all the people of Botswana, including the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.”