Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Botswana

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Botswana, 16 July 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a66d9bfc.html [accessed 29 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The president of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, took office in April 2008 with statements about the need to celebrate Botswana's 'unity in diversity'. These were welcome in the context of a country that continues to give the eight Tswana tribes, a numerical minority, the privileges attached to official recognition, while many of Botswana's other 38 tribes continue to suffer from disproportionate poverty and have experienced the loss of both their culture and language, which are not permitted on private or public radio, or in education. However, according to Survival International, the new president dealt the Bushmen a major blow in a speech in December 2008 when he said that 'the notion ... that [the Bushmen wish] to subsist today on the basis of a hunter-gathering lifestyle is an archaic fantasy'.

Some small steps towards recognition were made by the government during 2008. In May, at a workshop on the Botswana Consensus on the Rule of Law and Good Governance, the Attorney General stated the need to 'review the Constitution and enhance the protection of fundamental rights', which gives minority rights groups in Botswana an opportunity to address the current imbalances. In addition, in July, President's Day holidays were marked with cultural competitions in performing arts – again providing an opportunity for minority groups to express their own cultures.

Another major step was the appointment of a Wayeyi chief to the House of Chiefs (Ntlo ya Dikgosi) for the first time. However, the chief has no powers to appoint headman like the Tswana chiefs do. Minority groups are now calling for legislation to be changed to respect all the other minorities similarly.

Non-Tswana, especially the San communities, have long faced barriers to education, as they have been unable to educate their children in their own language. According to a 2007 IRIN report, teaching is mostly done in English or Setswana, which many San children do not speak.

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