Botswana, lately renowned for its public pronouncements against countries that commit atrocities against their citizens, has yet to take a position on Malawi, where demonstrations against Bingu wa Mutharika’s government have left 18 people dead.
The 18 Malawian demonstrators were killed by security agents. However, unlike when atrocities were committed in North African countries and the Middle East, particularly in Libya and Syria, Botswana has been silent on Malawi.
Some commentators have ticked off Botswana’s silence on the Malawi issue as a double standard application of foreign policy, particularly that wa Mutharika is viewed as President Ian Khama’s friend. Early this year, Lobatse Member of Parliament, Nehemiah Modubule, refused to attend the official opening of the Lobatse Stadium after government had invited wa Mutharika as the official guest. In an interview with The Telegraph on Monday evening, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani, said he has asked for information from Botswana’s High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Gladys Kokorwe, on what happened in Malawi.
“I do not have information and as such we have not yet taken a position. As you are aware, I was in Mozambique on an official assignment and I didn’t watch television to see what is happening. I do not even know whether those people were armed or just marching to express their displeasure at the government. I have given our Harare office up to tomorrow morning to supply me with full information and I hope our position will be made known by Tuesday afternoon,” said Skelemani. While Botswana is yet to declare its position on the current Malawi atrocities, Modubule, who refused to share the podium with wa Mutharika, says he has been vindicated.
“In fact, I was vindicated a week after I refused to be on the same stage with wa Mutharika. I have long been vindicated. A week after wa Mutharika left Botswana, he fired the British envoy who had raised similar concerns against him.
“Now his security agents are firing at innocent people who are marching in protest against his rule. Malawians must rise up and make sure the dictator goes. Otherwise their country is going to the dogs,” said Modubule.
The outspoken legislator said it is surprising that Botswana’s government has remained silent on the Malawian situation.
“Botswana’s government is silent when their friend is killing innocent people. It is surprising that Skelemani says he has not yet been appraised on the Malawi situation,” said Modubule, who added that it is a pity that Botswana government had invited a dictator like wa Mutharika to open the stadium in his constituency.
A commentator who preferred not to be named said the Malawi situation is putting Botswana in the spotlight and hoped that the country will not shy away from taking a hard stand against the country. “Botswana has done well in foreign relations recently and it would be a pity if they do not take a position against Malawi like they did with Libya and Syria. It is only appropriate that the Khama administration rises to the occasion and take punitive action against Malawi. They must immediately cut ties with the country and expel its envoy as they did with Libya,” said the commentator.