Scores of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament and cabinet Ministers are angry with a response by the Office of the President to a statement by the United States of America statement on the arrest of Sunday Standard editor, Outsa Mokone.
The US has since condemned the arrest of Mokone by the Government of Botswana on charges of sedition relating to an article published by The Sunday Standard.
The US stated that it strongly values freedom of the press and that Mokone’s arrest was inconsistent with the fundamental freedoms and at odds with Botswana’s strong tradition of democratic governance. BDP ministers and members of Parliament disapprove the government response that noted with dismay a press statement attributed to Ms. Marie Harf, Deputy Department Spokesperson U.S. State Department, expressing concern about the arrest of Mokone.
The government of Botswana through its spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay noted that they find it unfortunate to say the least that a foreign Government, much less one that professes to be a friend and partner of Botswana, should issue such a statement about an ongoing judicial process in Botswana, without even having first approached the appropriate authorities for clarification on the matter. “In this respect, we can confirm that at no point prior to the issuance of the said press statement did any representative of the US Government approach our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as is the accepted diplomatic norm,” the release stated.
A minister and a Member of Parliament who would not speak on the record said that the response to the US statement was likely to strain the already tortured relationship between Botswana and US. They insisted that this was the popular view among ministers, MPs and the rest of the government enclave “The same government supported the US statements and diplomatic moves in other countries including closing some of its embassies in other countries. Now because it is Botswana on the receiving end, our very own government sees it not fit for US to issue a statement on the arrest of the Sunday Standard editor. I am disappointed with my government.” said a Member of Parliament who did not want to be named.
A cabinet Minister who also wanted to remain anonymous said Botswana is inviting negative publicity when general elections are around the corner. “We are yet to go for the general elections; we are giving other governments an impression that media freedoms are violated. We should be careful as a country of what we say, and we should not make decisions in the heat of the moment. I think it was too early for government to have issued the statement,” he said.