We are the First People’: Land, Natural Resources and Identity in the Central Kalahari, Botswana

Full Title:

We are the First People': Land, Natural Resources and Identity in the Central Kalahari, Botswana

Author: Robert K Hitchcock
Publication: Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 28, Number 4
Date: December 2002


This article focuses on the ways in which the San and another minority group, the Bakgalagadi, have been treated over time in Botswana, with particular emphasis on the people residing in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the largest protected area in the country. It deals specifically with the roles of various institutions and individuals, including the Botswana government, advocacy groups, donors, community-based organisations and, importantly, the San and Bakgalagadi themselves, in promoting minority rights, especially those relating to land, natural resources and identity. Some San organisations, such as First People of the Kalahari, attempted to use the contentious issue of being ‘indigenous’ as a means of arguing for rights to land and resources. In the end, efforts to promote indigenous rights and the filing of a legal land claim in the High Court were unsuccessful in preventing the removals of people from their ancestral territories in the Central Kalahari. There are lessons here for indigenous peoples’ and minorities’ human rights movements in Africa, including the importance of building inter-group coalitions, the need to use diversified strategies to achieve goals, the significance of striking a balance between outside assistance and working with local groups, and the value of mobilising people at the grassroots over the long term.

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