X-Files star Gillian Anderson is among a band of celebrities boycotting diamonds from Botswana to protest against how the government's treatment of families living in the Kalahari game reserve.
Tribes people’s rights group, Survival International, which called for the boycott yesterday held a protest outside De Beers’ flagship London diamond store, calling for the indigenous families to be given full rights to their homelands.
Actresses Joanna Lumley and Sophie Okonedo, actor Mark Rylance and British children's author Quentin Blake are also backing the protest.
"People should know that far from being an expensive token of eternal love, Botswana diamonds are a symbol of the nasty oppression of southern Africa’s first people,” said Survival’s Stephen Corry.
Survival has also called for a boycott of tourism and travel to the southern African country and handed in a letter at the De Beers San Francisco store. De Beers is part-owned by the Botswana government.
The rights group said the Bushmen, southern Africa’s first inhabitants Bush and the original inhabitants of Botswana were illegally moved outside their traditional lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 2002 after diamonds were unearthed there.
Botswana produces almost a quarter of the world's diamonds, accounting for half its government's revenue.
Jeweller, Pippa Small, said, “As jewellers we have for years made sure that we do not use blood diamonds. Now we also need to boycott Botswana diamonds until the Bushmen are allowed to live and hunt freely on their land.”
When Bushman families were illegally evicted from their mother lands in 2002, the government denied that were was a significant amount of diamonds on their land. But eight years later, Gem Diamonds, which bought the concession from De Beers, is in negotiations to construct a $3.3 billion mine at one of the Bushman communities.
While Gem Diamonds, in which jewellers Graff has a stake, pushes ahead with its mine, Bushmen families are being starved off their lands. Despite winning a high-profile legal battle allowing them to return home, the Botswana government has banned them from using a well which they rely on for water, and stopped them from hunting for food.
At the same time as denying the Bushmen access to their well, the government used cash from the Tiffany & Co Foundation to drill new ones that only animals can use, says Survival. It also allowed ‘ethical’ travel company, Wilderness Safaris, to open a luxury tourist complete with bar and swimming pool on the families’ land.
Survival’s Stephen Corry, said, “Botswana’s diamond industry is the ‘Siamese twin’ of the government. People should know that far from being an expensive token of eternal love, Botswana diamonds are a symbol of the nasty oppression of southern Africa’s first people”