March 23, 2004 -
South African Broadcasting Corporation
More than 700 civil society activists from around the world have
gathered in Gaborone, Botswana, to highlight some of
the key issues that continue to stifle Africa's
socio-economic development. Meeting under the theme
"Acting together for a just world", the activists from
more than 100 countries will tackle issues such as
HIV/Aids, global war on terror, the widening gap of
the digital divide and civil strife.
The World Alliance for Citizen Participation (Civicus)
World Assembly brings together civil society activists
from across the world to exchange information and
ideas about developmental issues in Africa and the
third world nations. It is for the first time that an
African country, in this case Botswana, has hosted
this global event. Botswana, which is hailed for its
democratic principles, the rule of law, and high
credit ratings, is often criticised for its handling
of the resettlement of the indigenous San community.
The last remaining Kalahari Bushmen or San people of
Botswana, are now being forced out of their
traditional homesteads of the central Kgalagadi Game
Reserve. An estimated 2 200 San community have already
been relocated into neighbouring resettlement camps.
'Stone Age creatures'
Survival International, a London based human rights
group, has came under attack from Festus Mogae, the
Botswana president, for claiming that the San are
being removed to make way for diamond prospecting and
mining. Mogae has justified the move as "just" and in
line with his government’s efforts to improve the
livelihood of those who at some quarters, are often
referred to as "Stone Age creatures".
However, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation
interprets the whole issue differently. Avoiding being
in a collision course with their hosts, in this case
the Botswana government, Kumi Naidoo, the Civicus
chairperson, maintained that the debate around the
creation of a just world would be pointless, if
minority rights issues were sidelined in what he terms
major global gathering.
Amongst those expected to address the gathering are
luminaries such as Mary Robinson, the former Irish
president, and United Nations High Commissioner, James
Wolfensohn, the World Bank president, and Graca Machel,
a children's rights champion.