Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium International (APRCi)

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Before Farming

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A court case raised by a group of San (former) hunter-gatherers, protesting against relocation from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, has attracted considerable international attention. The Government of Botswana argues that the relocation was done in order to ‘improve the lives’ of the residents, and that it was in their own best interest. The residents plead their right to stay in their traditional territories, a right increasingly acknowledged in international law, and claim that they did not relocate voluntarily. The case started in 2004 and will, due to long interspersed adjournments, go on into 2006.

This article traces the events that led up to the case, and reports on its progress thus far. The case is seen as an arena for expressing and negotiating the relationship between an indigenous minority and the state in which they reside. The article discusses different aspects of this relationship as illuminated by the current court case, concluding that the favoured development ideals of a modern homogenous state have shaped policies that are unwilling to accommodate alternative development models favoured by the San.

The analysis shows how international solidarity and support have been essential for the San to be able to present their grievances, but at the same time argues that Survival International’s campaign against Botswana diamonds may sidetrack the work for necessary changes in the national development policy.

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