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Botswana high court rules government eviction of tribe unconstitutional

[JURIST] The High Court of Botswana [BBC profile] has ruled that the government's eviction of Bushmen inhabiting the Kalahari desert is "unlawful and unconstitutional." The suit was brought by 239 members of the San tribe with the aid of the First People of the Kalahari [backgrounder] and Survival International [advocacy website, case background materials]. The so-called Bushmen [SI backgrounder], whose ancestors have lived in the Kalahari desert for 20,000 years, claim that twelve percent of their fellow plaintiffs have died since 2002 in the settlement camps to which the government forced the Bushmen in 1997 and 2002. While the plaintiffs contend the government wanted to make room for increased diamond mining operations, the government cited the Bushmen's negative effect on conservation efforts as the motivation behind the relocation.

The case, originally filed in 2002 and dismissed on procedural grounds before the High Court agreed to hear it in 2004, marks the longest and most expensive in Botswana's history. The High Court held that the government was not required to provide water or other basic services to those returning to the reserve. No support for the claims that diamond mining was behind the expulsions was found, although advocacy groups have launched a campaign [advocacy website] to boycott the diamond company De Beers [corporate website]. The Guardian has more.

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