- Batswana human rights groups join the UN, criticising the Gaborone government for not acting to suppress racial discrimination in the country. A UN report recently pointed out discriminations against indigenous people, certain ethnic groups, non-citizens, asylum seekers and refugees in Botswana. In particular the San people ("Bushmen") and other ethnic groups not being of the Tswana majority face tough discrimination.
Ditshwanelo, the leading human rights group in Botswana, and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) today joined the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its criticism of the Gaborone government. Ditshwanelo and FIDH called on authorities "to fully enforce all recommendations" made by the UN Committee in a statement today.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last month went far in criticising the Gaborone government. The UN Committee recommends Botswana to review the constitutional definition of discrimination as it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on descent, national or ethnic origin and indirect discrimination. Furthermore, it asks for a review of the exceptions to the prohibition of discrimination in relation to non-citizens and on the basis of ethnic origin or tribe.
The Committee pointed out the reluctance of Botswana to recognise the existence of indigenous peoples. The UN in particular with concern had noted the situation of the indigenous San people residing in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and the discrepancy between the information provided by the state and the residents of Reserve concerning the forced character of their relocation. Gaborone was urged to resume negotiations with the San, including those who have already been relocated to find a solution acceptable to all.
The UN Committee also was concerned about difficulties experienced by poor people - including non-Tswana peoples - regarding their participation in political affairs and their access to justice. Botswana must "ensure full access to justice" especially to the most disadvantaged groups by notably providing adequate legal aid and interpretation services, the UN human rights experts urged.
According to the UN, there had been some progress concerning education in the main mother tongues of non-Tswana peoples during the last few years. However, the Committee had noted "difficulties experienced by children belonging to non-Tswana tribes notably because of linguistic barriers and the lack of reference to the history, culture and traditions of non Tswana tribes in the school curricula."
In addition to discriminatory policies against the indigenous San people and other non-Tswana ethnics, the Botswana government was also criticised for its discrimination against non-citizens, asylum seekers and refugees. Refugees were not being given the right to an appeal before a judicial body if their applications were turned down. Further, refugees do not have access to national antiretroviral therapy programmes or the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV programme in Botswana. The UN recommended that refugees were granted access to both of these health care programmes.
Furthermore, the UN Committee was concerned about "the growing hostility and ill-treatment towards immigrants, particularly Zimbabweans" and about reports that some Zimbabweans had been ill-treated by police officers. They recommended Botswana promptly investigates the complaints of ill-treatment and provides adequate human rights training to its law enforcement staff.
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