Saturday, July 4, 2020

Botswana joins global calls for US to end injustices against African-Americans

In a rare departure from President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s departure from silent diplomacy, Botswana last week became the latest African country to lobby for the United States of America to be subjected to a human rights inquiry by the United Nations (UN) similar to violations happening in Syria.

The move was inspired by African nations that have called for the UN’s Human Rights Council to set up an inquiry into systemic racism and policy brutality in the United States of America against people of African descent following the police killing of George Floyd when a white police officer kneeled on his neck amid pleas of “I can’t breathe” raising alarm about police brutality and systemic racism in the United States which has gone unabated.While Botswana is yet to make her official position known, two of her top international diplomats weighed in on the issue by rallying behind Burkina Faso – a member of the UN human rights council representing 54 African countries.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Gaeimelwe Goitsemang told Sunday Standard that whatever diplomats say or debate during such discussions they are guided by Botswana’s Foreign Policy. He said since Botswana is not a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, she does not have a say when it comes to voting but that does not preclude her from the debates.“We cannot pronounce our position now because reaching a consensus resolution is a process. We don’t have a say during the voting process. But when issues are debated, we share our views and guide how the resolution should be crafted,” he said. He said the country’s diplomatic representatives advance the country’s position during debates.Botswana’s diplomatic representatives were among those that spoke about the urgent debate on “calls to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States,” according to the United Nations website.

Prior to the debate, Botswana’s representative to the U.N. in Geneva, Bokani Sesinyi, was quoted as saying that she supports calls for a resolution that “addresses the urgency of the matter today.”“There is nobody who doubts that the American system has a judiciary system that is functional,” Sesinyi was quoted as saying. “If it is so good, then why is it happening over and over and over again?” she reportedly said in reference to the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other unarmed black people who were killed by police officers in the U.S.Sesinyi reportedly said Western countries that had expressed good intentions needed to do more than just “talk shop” and take action this time.

According to international media reports, Botswana reportedly shared her input on the draft resolution calling for the inquiry into systemic racism in the US.Botswana’s ambassador to Switzerland, Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme, reportedly spoke during the debate, focusing on the uprising of people on the streets of the US and elsewhere, protesting against racism and brutality.“The protests forced all of us to look in the mirror and introspect on the state of the world also on the horrors of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, among others,” she was quoted as saying.

The Human Right Council this week debated the current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests. It heard calls from speakers for the Council to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States.According to the Human Rights Council website, in the discussion that followed, speakers thanked the African Group for putting this important topic on the agenda. 

For some of them, racist acts were not errors of the system in the United States, but rather functions of it, and racism was widespread in the administration of President Donald Trump.  Other speakers stressed that racism was present everywhere and, consequently, no country should be singled out.  Some endorsed the idea of creating an independent commission of inquiry, urging the Council to take action and not become a passive observer. 

Others expressed support for the United States’ recent steps to address racism, police brutality and violent responses to peaceful demonstrations, noting, for example, the charging of officers over George Floyd’s death, the removal of others responsible for excessive force, as well as moves towards police reform. 

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.