Perhaps some of you heard this segment on NPR yesterday morning. I’ve been following the story of the bushmen’s fight for land rights in the Kalahari since early this fall when I read The Healing Land by Rupert Isaacson. I met Rupert, who happens to be an Elgin resident, a few months ago when he came to my book group to talk about his book.
Over many years the government of Botswana has been forcibly removing the bushmen from their traditional lands. The government has cited many reasons, including game preservation, better schools and better health care services. However, the pervading assumption is that the land is sitting on a fortune in diamonds. This week a court in Botswana ruled that this removal is illegal.
I hinted a some weeks ago that I was disillusioned with Amnesty International. This disillusionment stems from Rupert’s frustration with Amnesty’s unwillingness to take on the cause of DeBeers‘s (the diamond trading corporation) activities in the traditional lands of the bushmen. He had unconfirmed suspicions that acceptance of donations from DeBeers may have influenced Amnesty’s sluggishness. After my discussion with Rupert I have come to think that smaller charities working on specific causes may do more good in the world than behemoth groups like Amnesty, UNICEF, etc. These large groups must at some point compromise principle to politics whereas small groups can operate with more agility and focus. Until recently, I was regular contributor to Amnesty but even then I was wondering if I was just paying for more mailers asking for more money.
The offices of Rupert’s group, The Indigenous Land Rights Fund, are housed in his laptop, cell phone and all his contacts throughout the Kalahari. It would seem that this week at least, the little guys won one.