Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boycott Botswana's Diamonds . . . ?

There is an article on about the call from Survival International to boycott Botswana's diamond industry. According to the SI, the government of Botswana is attempting to starve out Bushmen in the Kalahari region by by halting distribution of water throughout the area as well as removing pumps to extract water and banning the re-opening of a closed borehole which provided water to the majority of Bushmen community. In addition to boycotting the country's diamonds, SI is also calling for a boycott of Botswana tourism - safaris are the main draw in Botswana - until the Botswana High Court rules in favor of the Bushman and the right to access water and (live on their ancestral lands.)

This article caught my eye mainly because Botswana is known as a provider of "legitimate diamonds" (as opposed to "blood diamonds") and the government has been lauded for raising the living standards of its citizens because of diamond revenue. Though Survival International's website is fairly vague about how it works and I am not sure of its legitimacy, the claim of the Bushmen is valid, as is any international outcry supporting it. Yet I wonder how much attention this will get in international media as it is a crime with no bloodshed where the government in question is ultimately helping the majority of its citizens with education, health care and the like? Or will those organizations dedicated to promoting conflict-free diamonds take up the Bushmen cause as well?

On a related note: how effective are campaigns against so-called blood diamonds? The diamond industry is a global monster and I can't imagine it can be brought by a few opposition campaigns. Plus the fervor over diamonds seems to have died down during the past couple of years. I'll look into it and let you know what I find.

Photo courtesy M. Cowan, Survival International

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