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Civil society calls for a 'just world'
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.,2172,76434,00.html


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