Sunday, May 9, 2021

Botswana isolated and scared

Botswana has become isolated from the rest of Africa and the government enclave is worried that the world outside has become a more dangerous place for the country’s citizens because of President Khama’s hardline position against repressive regimes ÔÇô a confidential US government cable has revealed. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phandu Skelemani confided to France, Germany, Japan, the U.S. and UK diplomats in Gaborone that the government of Botswana feels its people are especially at risk because of the country’s position against SADC and the African Union on major African controversies.

“In Africa, we have set ourselves up as a target, because we talk too much,” Skelemani is quoted saying in a US cable leaked to WikiLeaks. The fear that Batswana may have become prime targets for attacks by hostile African countries was cited as the main reason why Botswana withdrew its personnel from Sudan after a Botswana Defence Force soldier, attached to an African Union contingent in Darfur, was killed there. The cables show how Botswana has become closer to the west and estranged from the rest of Africa and depict a pattern where President Khama and his ministers discussed sensitive issues with diplomats from western countries while diplomats from other countries were closed out. For example, following the controversial SADC summit where the Zimbabwean government of national unity was discussed, President Khama invited ambassadors from America, UK France, Germany, and the European Union to a meeting at his office to pour out his heart about the summit.

Khama told the ambassadors how, with the death of former President of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa, he had lost an ally within the SADC proceedings. On the eve of the summit, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ramadeluka Seretse invited US, UK, French, German and EU Chiefs of Mission “for an urgent meeting” to discuss strategies.

During the meeting, western diplomats raised concern that South Africa “may try to use the summit to force a resolution favourable to Robert Mugabe,” Seretse, however “”noted that there has been a helpful shift of atmosphere in South Africa, with civil society as well as COSATU coming out in support of Tsvangirai and the MDC. Statements by Archbishop Tutu and Graca Machel have helped focus attention on the injustice and suffering in Zimbabwe, increasing pressure on both the South African government and SADC to produce a fair result.

Mugabe himself seems to have realized that blocking a visit by the Elders last year was a mistake and has sought to “apologize” for the snub. While Botswana was outvoted by eight to four at the last SADC summit on Zimbabwe, Seretse indicated that Botswana would not be so isolated this time and that South Africa would not be able to impose a one-sided solution.”

In line with the trend, former Minister Skelemani also invited “the select group of resident Chiefs of Mission – Japan, Britain, Germany, France, the European Union and the United States – for a briefing on Madagascar and Zimbabwe. The US cable states, “as always, Minister Skelemani offered candid and colourful comments during the 90 minute meeting, reflecting the frustrations that he and the Government of Botswana often feel with regard to the inner workings of both SADC and the African Union.”


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