NGO Attacks Industry Over Bushmen

Another human rights group is taking swipes at the diamond industry, this time charging that diamond reserves are uprooting the Bushmen of Botswana.

Survival International, which describes itself as “a worldwide organization supporting tribal people,” has run ads about the forced removal of the Bushmen in newspapers in Canada, Australia, and Britain. A p.r. campaign has led to publicity on National Public Radio and in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Christian Science Monitor.

At issue is the fate of the Gani and Gwi Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, whom the Botswanan government recently resettled. The government says this will improve their health care and living arrangements. But Survival International says the government just wants a crack at their diamond reserves. The ads make this connection explicit: One is headlined, “Botswana Diamonds, Bushman Despair.”

“There are known to be at least two major diamond deposits in the Reserve,” says campaign coordinator Jonathan Makower. “It is likely there are others.”

Survival International director Stephen Corry says his group “is prepared to carry on this campaign for many years if necessary. Our campaign for the Yanomami Indians lasted 22 years until the government there recognized their land rights.”

De Beers denies. In response, De Beers flatly denied diamond mining played any role in the resettlement of the Bushmen.

“De Beers has never sought the removal of the Bushmen,” said corporate spokesman Rory Moore O’Ferrall in a statement to the media. “Diamond mining does not require the removal or resettlement of any community, in Botswana or elsewhere. Indeed, we welcome the presence of local populations to which we can offer employment.”

He said that while De Beers has conducted tests for diamonds in the area, the deposits were not commercially viable.

O’Ferrall called the resettlement question “a matter which must reside with the government and people of Botswana.”