Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Statement by Job Morris, Botswana: Human Rights

Human Rights (UNPFII) Statement by Job Morris

Agenda Item 4: Human Rights

Madam Chair, thank you for this time.

My name is Job Morris. I am from a small Indigenous village in Botswana called D‘Kar. It is in the Central part of Ghanzi District on the Kalahari Desert, and has a population of approximately 1500 Indigenous Peoples, called by our tribal toungue as Naro. However, I am here to represent not only the situations of my people but also of Indigenous Peoples throughout Botswana.

Indigenous Peoples in Botswana are identified using many derogatory names and those names act as a collective identity that encompasses all our tribes. I am Naro and I cannot hear or understand Dxana, Dcui, Juchoansi or others when they speak but we are tied together by the common problems we have. When we identify all these groups together we use the name ‘San’.

Madam Chair, because of industrialization, we, San have lost our lands. We are often driven away from soils we once knew and are relocated to other lands where we conflict with other groups. This is not development to us. Is Botswana a place rich in heritage but hopeless for the future of the San? A place of plentiful resources yet continuous deprivation? No doubt, we are in crisis whose complexity can be observed by a long list of problems: 1. Loss of Ancestral Lands, 2. Loss of Culture and language, 3. Severe poverty, 4. Discrimination, stereotyping and use of derogatory names, 5. Abuse in many forms, 6. Increased deaths and ailments, 7. Lack of representation in the Government and the executive systems of the country, 8. Loss of dignity of our youth.

I acknowledge Botswana for ratifying other conventions of United Nations but it has not ratified ILO Convention 169, the only convention that can bring hope to our communities, the only convention that can bring empowerment and improve development in all its respect. This law can give us our right to own land that we have traditionally occupied from time immemorial and protect our languages, cultures, and heritage. This to us is development. What more do we need?

While we are the natives of Botswana, we do not enjoy the same rights as other Batswana. Numerous San communities were relocated from their Ancestral Lands as in the recent CKGR (Central Kalahari Game Reserve) case. Some San were forced to move in the name of Development and some died in the name of development. There in CKGR, because of the forced relocation, their livelihood, culture and values are slowly diminishing. They have a small land for a vast number of people and cattle--all this, in the name of development.

Moved from our land, we met with many different societies who do not understand our way of life. Some San went in to the towns and because of not being educated and not being able to find work, became involved in crime in order to survive the competitive new environment. In our culture we have the spirit of sharing and also of hoarding for the near future especially for our children, but in a competitive environment, how is it possible?

We share. Each one of us is a uniquely gifted person that wants to contribute to the lives of other people. We share our skills and this is the greatest gift of all. On every succesful hunt, the hunter shares his kill because sharing his kill brings utmost happiness to him. This value is represented by the Honey Guide. Nothing is freer and more fulfilled than this little bird. If you know how to listen, you will hear that it calls you and that it tells you that it has found good honey and wants to share with you. If you follow it you will soon find the honey. It is teaching us to share things with each other and to help each other. It is a sign of a broken society when people demand handouts and give up their independence and freedom to other people. With only this value, we see Development to be about getting the recognition and having the freedom to give to others from the unique gifts each and everyone of us have. It also tells us that we need to share resources, but that we need to exploit those resources in a sustainable manner. It tells us not to deprive the abundance of those resources from other people but use them to help, to share, to develop. These are the things people need to learn about us.
Madam Chair, human rights violations come in many forms and these are the ones we face in Botswana. We are not recognised by the higher systems of the country and as a result, our tiny voices cannot be heard. I would like to urge the Permanent forum to:

1. bring into attention the need for the Botswana Government to sign and ratify ILO Convention169,

2. give us a voice so we can be represented nationally and internationaly,

3. ensure close monitoring that the rights of our people are not violated,

4. that the Special Rappoteur continue to investigate and consult with San communities & Government of Botswana about the findings in his report in Botswana & human rigts situation of the San,

5. empower and work closely with Indigenous Peoples CSOs in Botswana so that they can help oversee the issues of the San Peoples.

In conclusion, there is a difference between Indigenous Peoples of the world, in terms of culture, politics, social aspects and economics, but there are quite a number of ligaments that tie us together and in each instances, make us more or less the same and set us apart from other groups. For those Indigenous Peoples who have made it, empower us, show us, guide us, strengthen us, motivate us and increase our capacities based on your experiences so that we can become more than just how other societies perceive us but also people who are sustainable and independent.

Thank you Madam Chair.