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President Mokgweetsi Masisi has continued to emphasize his administration’s efforts to break away from the no nonsense foreign policy approach employed by his now estranged predecessor, Ian Khama.
Addressing Botswana and foreign diplomats at Fairgrounds Holdings last week, Masisi made reference to his own inauguration speech in which he undertook to enhance engagement with the international community with a view to foster friendly relations with other countries.
“I am pleased to note that the relationship between Botswana and your respective countries is growing in leaps and bounds and assuming more strategic significance,” Masisi told foreign envoys.
He said his administration values the friendship with other countries and will endeavour to take it to greater heights. “To demonstrate my administration’s commitment, shortly after becoming President, I visited our neighbouring countries and several others in the SADC region, to further strengthen the bond of friendship between Botswana and the respective countries.”
While Khama had always shunned international forums, electing to rather send his Vice Presidents and Ministers to stand on his behalf, Masisi has taken the opposite approach. “I have committed myself to vigorously engaging with members of the international community by among others participating in forums which promote the fundamental principles of democracy ,good governance, environmental issues ,wildlife conservation , trade and investment, climate change and others.”
So stubborn was Khama in his stance against attending major international forums with his counterparts that he has never in his ten year tenure as President attended a single United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
In 2010, two years into his presidency, Khama delegated his then Vice President the late Mompati Merafhe to attend the UN General Assembly on his behalf, choosing rather to mingle with residents of Maunatlala, Goo-Tau, and Mosweu villages enjoying an evening bonfire.
If he was not sitting around a bonfire while missing out on the General Assembly Khama would be busy playing obstacles at the Lady Khama Charitable Trust family fun day.
Masisi is expected to break away from that tradition and attend this year’s General Assembly in September. Still in September Masisi is also set to set to lead a Botswana delegation to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation where he is expected to use the opportunity to do some damage control and restore cordial relations between the two governments which broke under Khama’s watch.
President Masisi also emphasized the need to restore public confidence in government which dropped dramatically under Khama’s administration owing to draconian laws and an unprecedented rise in institutionalized corruption. “In order to address challenges we are facing, my government has taken bold and strategic decisions to combat corruption, improve the ease of doing business, create jobs, restore confidence in government and enhance bilateral relations with our strategic partners. Former Liberian president Professor Amos Sawyer earlier this year advised Masisi against institutionalized corruption and abuse of executive powers sayingproper use of executive powers can promote good governance and accountability.
Addressing diplomats this past week Masisi said his government would continue to actively participate in the work of the United Nations in pursuit of sustainable development, as well as maintenance of international peace and security. “Botswana’s foreign policy will be guided by the principles of democracy, development, self-reliance, unity, humility, peaceful resolution of conflicts, peaceful coexistence, and good neighborliness, territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations, respect for human rights and rule of law, good governance, and rules based world order and general principles of international law,” Masisi said.
He said the International Criminal Court (ICC) will remain relevant in Botswana as it is the only international criminal tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.