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From a phone call to the high court : wayeyi visibility and the Kamanakao association’s campaign for linguistic and cultural rights in Botswana

Publication Date
  • Ddc:960
  • Law
  • Political Science


This paper by the Coordinator of the Kamanakao Association reflects upon the Association’s campaign against tribally discriminatory laws, against the social stigma of past serfdom, and for human rights and democracy in Botswana. The campaign made Wayeyi from the North West District highly visible on the national scene. Through litigation up to the High Court, the Kamanakao Association broke new ground for judicial review in the broad public interest. The advance was for the cultural rights of ‘minorities’ in general, and not only in the interest of the Wayeyi. The most favourable High Court ruling recognised Yei cultural distinctness, allowed them to secede from the tribe of their past overlords, the Tawana, and concluded a landmark case in the wider fight against state-backed tribal discrimination and denial of language rights. As an insider’s account mainly about recent events, but seen in a perspective extending to precolonial times, the paper focuses on strategies for and against change. These are the strategies effecting the power relations, in turn, between the Yeyi and the Tawana, former serfs and overlords, the Yeyi and the Government, and the Government and the Tswana speaking tribes unfairly privileged by the tribally discriminatory laws.

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