Tourists have been urged to avoid Botswana in protest at the alleged mistreatment of the country''s Bushmen.

Survival International, which supports the rights of tribal groups around the world, accused the Botswana government of thwarting attempts to restore the Bushmen''s free access to their ancestral homeland.

In a press release, it said the government’s behaviour on the issue was “disgraceful”, reserving its harshest criticism for Ian Khama, the Botswana president. Stephen Corry, Survival’s director, described his treatment of the Bushmen as “illegal, inhuman and degrading.”

Survival International said it would ask supporters to join a boycott of the country, as well as write to its minister of tourism in protest.




Campaigners have also written to tour operators including Trailfinders, Intrepid and Absolute Travel, urging them to stop running trips to the country.

The latest move was prompted by the rejection of an attempt to overturn a law requiring Bushmen to have permits to enter their traditional hunting grounds on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

According to Survival International, Gordon Bennett, a British attorney, had been blocked from coming into the country to help the Bushmen’s legal case.

Chris McIntyre, who runs the tour operator Expert Africa and is author of the latest Bradt guidebook to Botswana, said both the country’s government and Survival International had adopted an “unhelpful” approach at times.

“Over the years neither of them seems able to help reach a really fair and pragmatic solution which will help the day-to-day life of the poor people involved,” he said. “It''s a real failure for both.”

He described the calls for a boycott as “counterproductive”, saying it would hit local people.

“One job in tourism usually supports many people in the wider community. Elsewhere in Africa, tourism is actively helping to conserve the Bushmen''s traditional skills, and earning them a proper income.”

He also praised Botswana for its good schools and good social programmes, describing it as "one of the last African countries which might deserve to be penalised over human rights issues."

The issue over the Bushmen – one of several terms used to describe a broad ethnic group spread across Botswana and Namibia – has flared up over several decades.

The current conflict was triggered by a Botswana government decision to evict Bushmen from the CKGR, their traditional homeland, and re-settle them outside the reserve.

That policy was reversed by a Botswana high court decision in 2006, allowing Bushmen to return but without obliging the government to provide amenities. Gradual erosion of the Bushmen’s traditional hunter-gatherer way of life has also complicated the issue.

Survival International has previously called for a boycott of the country, back in 2010, after the government sealed off access to a borehole on the reserve.

The Botswana Tourism Organisation in London did not respond to requests for comment.

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