After leading Botswana to independence in 1966, President Seretse Khama also got it into a five-year old organisation called the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Obviously, this was a cabinet decision and among those in Khama’s cabinet at the time was Edison Masisi who was the Assistant Minister of Education, Labour and Social Services.
NAM’s objective is to “achieve the development goal of developing countries to attain sustained people-centred development and to enable developing countries to become equal partners in international relations.” It is understandable why NAM wanted equal international citizenship. The post-World War Two world order had entrenched western domination and sought to formalize such domination through the United Nations. With 120 member states, NAM became the second largest gathering of nations after the UN. Through its membership of NAM and as a member of the Frontline States, Botswana played no small role in the international fight against the apartheid regime on its doorstep. As a matter of fact, NAM was the first international body to support the struggle against apartheid South Africa.
“We must be clear that the Frontline States (Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana and Zimbabwe) and others will suffer some damage to their economy and face harsh retaliations from Pretoria,” said Rajiv Gandhi at the NAM Summit that was held in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1986.
Gandhi was speaking as Indian prime minister and outgoing NAM president.
The sacrifice that Botswana made and the results of such sacrifice (South Africa’s independence) are a concrete achievement that should be directly credited to founding leaders like Sir Seretse and Edison Masisi whose son, Mokgweetsi, is now Vice President. At least according to what is contained in his Independence Day, President Ian Khama cares about that legacy.
“We cannot afford to rest on our laurels based on past achievements, we need to do more to spring this country into the future. As we celebrate today, we should note that it is because our founding fathers had resilience and proved willing and able to overcome challenges of the past, through perseverance and hard work,” President Khama, who is Sir Seretse’s son, said in his message.
One of the ways in which the current leadership can honour the legacy of the founding fathers is to strengthen NAM but under the current administration, Botswana appears to be drifting away from it. In 2012 when NAM met in Iran, Botswana was not represented. The venue itself may have been a problem for President Khama whom Wikileaks says was very angry on learning about a planned football match between Botswana and Iran. On a broad basis, one understands why Khama would have a problem with NAM, a body that was formed for the precise purpose of fighting western domination. Throughout his rule, Khama’s foreign policy has been oriented towards western interest and in that way, entrenches western domination. It is within the broad scope of NAM to stop illicit financial flows (IFFs) from the Third World to the First World. The only way that Botswana ÔÇô which has lost trillions of pula through IFFs ÔÇô can join this fight is by aligning itself with other NAM countries against the west. One of NAM’s principles is “Solidarity as a fundamental component of relations among nations in all circumstances.”
The other principle is “Rejection of attempts at regime change”, something which Botswana should readily embrace. Addressing the UN General Assembly last month, Vice President Masisi rapped Kim Jong Un on the knuckles for his country’s nuclear weapons development programme.
“Regime change must be brought about in order to remove once and for all this everlasting threat to peace in that region and give the North Korea people a hope for a life of freedom and prosperity,” Masisi said.
Not only is “regime change” not the language of NAM, one of the Ten Principles of Bandung (NAM was created in Bandung, Indonesia) is “Non-use of pressures by any country against other countries.” One other principle enjoins member countries to recognize “the right of every nation to defend itself.”
Oddly for a country that believes that regime change is a legitimate method of replacing a government, Botswana kicked up a fuss in 2012 when then African National Congress Youth League president, Julius Malema, called for “regime change” here. Malema’s statements as well as his closeness to and influence within the ruling party, caused a diplomatic row between Botswana and South Africa.
NAM has a Security Council Caucus which consists of member countries that are elected to the UN Security Council as rotating members. Botswana has held such position.