The Botswana Government had initially planned not to provide security to the Dalai Lama when he visits the country, Sunday Standard has learnt.
But persistent nagging by the People’s Republic of China on Botswana to cancel the visit changed authorities’ position as officials started to express worries behind the scenes that the country risked being caught in a diplomatic storm was something to happen to the Dalai Lama while here given the Chinese resolve against his visit.
While the Botswana Government relented on providing the Dalai Lama with official security, additional conditions were put on him and his entourage.
“It has been made clear to the Dalai Lama that while here, he should not use his visit to attack the Government of China. If that happens, he will be immediately deported,” said an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The same requirements have also been put on his entourage.
In the meantime, the Government of China, through their embassy in Gaborone has been lobbying African countries to deny the Dalai Lama landing rights for airplane refueling.
This has forced the organisers of the visit to plan for a possible direct, non-stop flight to Botswana.
China has also been lobbying the South African Government to prevail over Graca Machel, a key panelist at the debate to cancel her appearance with Dalai Lama.
Machel is the wife of the late Nelson Mandela, who was a global political icon and first president of the democratic South Africa.
The South African Government has declined to be drawn into the Dalai Lama’s visit to Botswana, saying Mrs Machel was a private citizen and was free to do what she wished to do with her time.
“The concern by China is that by allowing the Dalai Lama here, Botswana is setting a bad precedent which is likely to be followed by other African countries. That is not our problem as Botswana,” said the same official who did not want to be named, given the sensitivity of the issue.
Meanwhile, the Communications Director of Mind & Life, who are organising the visit by Dalai Lama, Donald Crotteau, has told Sunday Standard that Botswana was chosen because the country has something to share with the world.
“The teachings and the life experiences of the Dalai Lama will resonate with the people of Botswana because Batswana share the experience of having a sacred history that was almost lost to foreign powers. (They) also share the experience of preservation, renewal and beneficial power of compassion, interconnection and ancient wisdom traditions,” said Crotteau.
He said he was confident that the visit will happen as planned.
“The Botswana Government has opened its doors to the Dalai Lama. I encourage you to research the public statements from the President’s office that the state will welcome the Dalai Lama,” he said in clear reference to attempts by China to get the visit cancelled.
“… I know with certainty that the visa was granted in 2016.”
He said the visit had nothing to do with China.
“This conference is about Botho/Ubuntu, not about Chinese politics. The Mind & Life Institute has had no contact with the Chinese government. The conference will go ahead (not if). The event is sold out and promises to be insightful and rewarding. The Mind & Life Institute has no information about China/Botswana relations,” he said.