Indigenous groups in Botswana still lacking services, opportunities – UN expert

27 March 2009

Botswana’s indigenous peoples still struggle to gain access to health services, education and employment opportunities, despite efforts to improve their situation, according to a United Nations human rights expert who conducted a nine-day visit to the Southern African country.

S. James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, welcomed government initiatives to eradicate discrimination and build a society of inclusion in Botswana.

“During his consultations, the Special Rapporteur heard that despite these efforts, the design and implementation of these development initiatives did not adequately take into account the language, culture, and heritage of those most affected, perhaps hindering their ultimate success,” stated a news release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The official trip was intended to shed light on the challenges faced by many of the diverse indigenous peoples of Botswana and promote talks aimed at solving their problems, especially in the areas of recognition and discrimination, land rights, poverty, education and language, and political participation.

Mr. Anaya visited the Kaudwane and New Xade settlements, where various communities reported difficulties with relocating from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and the communities of Gugamma and Metsiamanong, which have remained in the Reserve despite a lack of access to services including water.

Community members in West Hanahai, Mababe, and Shaikarawe reported that government and NGO-led development initiatives underway in their areas were deficient, and indigenous people relocated to the remote Tsodilo Hills, a renowned heritage site, expressed concern over the scant opportunities for making a living.

The Special Rapporteur, who serves the UN in an independent unpaid capacity, will present his findings and key recommendations in a report to a forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

 

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