Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Botswana’s freedom rights ratings downgraded by a key world body

The Unites States based Freedom House has downgraded Botswana’s freedom rights ratings from 2 to three.

In their 2010 report, Freedom House says Botswana’s freedom rights have continued to decline under President Ian Khama.

Freedom House is widely recognized as a definitive source of information on the state of freedom around the globe.

The institute is an independent watchdog organization that supports freedom around the world.

Since its establishment by a group of prominent Americans in 1941, Freedom House has supported democratic change around the world, monitored freedom and advocated for democracy and human rights.
The institute uses the influence it has over American policy makers to broaden and reward freedom around the world.

Countries are ranked on a scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 representing the lowest level of freedom.

Freedom House says “Botswana’s political rights rating declined from 2 to 3 due to decreased transparency and accountability in the executive branch under President Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration.”

In 2009, Botswana had earned the score of 2 on the sphere of political rights rating.

In another development the country’s score on civil liberties has remained unchanged at 2.

In their detailed country report which analyses the events in Botswana, Freedom House says that of concern has been the rising levels of extra-judicial killings in which security agencies are involved.

“A spate of extrajudicial killings by police and other security forces that began in 2008 continued in 2009. According to government statistics and media reports, there were between 10 and 12 such killings from April 2008 to the end of 2009. In May, the killing of alleged criminal John Kalafatis sparked a major controversy after press reports claimed that security forces were involved and that President Khama had ordered Kalafatis’s death. The government vociferously denied the charge.”

Freedom House also says there is concern that by and large the smaller tribes which are not a part of the “major eight” tend to be left out of the country’s decision making process.

The institute says due in part to their lack of representation in the House of Chiefs, minority groups are subject to patriarchal Tswana customary law despite having their own traditional rules for inheritance, marriage, and succession.

“The BDP’s control of the National Assembly and the presidency has never faced a serious challenge, and opposition parties, namely the BCP and the BNF, have accused the government of effectively institutionalizing the BDP’s dominant status.”

On the level of academic freedom, Freedom House says Botswana generally gives academics the space to operate.

“However, in 2005, the authorities deported Australian-born academic Kenneth Good after he criticized the institution of ‘automatic succession’ and said the government was run by a small elite and manipulated state media.”

Freedom House raises concerns about a decision by Government to register mobile phone users in 2009, saying it might be construed as bordering on stifling freedom of expression.

“While free and private discussion is largely protected, the government in 2008 mandated the registration of all prepaid mobile-telephone SIM cards, at risk of disconnection; only 15 percent of such cards had been registered by the December 2009 deadline. The November 2009 arrest and overnight detention of a South African woman for insulting the president also raised concerns about freedom of expression.”

The Government treatment of Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is one of the factors that has led to a decline in Botswana’s overall score.

Concern is also raised on the workers’ rights to go on strike action.

“The government generally respects the constitutional rights of assembly and association.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including human rights groups, operate openly without harassment. However, the government has barred San rights organizations from entering the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR), the subject of a long-running land dispute, and demonstrations at the reserve have been forcibly dispersed. While independent labor unions are permitted, workers’ rights to strike and bargain collectively are restricted.”

The effects the Directorate of Intelligence Services has on the society has also not escaped the report by Freedom House.

“The 2007 Intelligence and Security Services Act created a Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) in the office of the president. Critics said it vested too much power in the agency’s directorÔÇöallowing him to authorize arrests without warrants, for instanceÔÇöand lacked parliamentary oversight mechanisms. DIS officers were implicated in a number of extrajudicial killings in 2008 and 2009. Prisons are overcrowded and suffer from poor health conditions, though the government has responded by building new facilities and providing HIV testing to inmates.”

Yet another area that has led to a decline of Botswana’s overall score rating is the excessive power of the President vis-├á-vis Parliament.

“Despite being elected indirectly, the president holds significant power; while he can prolong or dismiss the legislature, the legislature is not empowered to impeach the president. Democracy advocates have alleged that power has become increasingly centralized around current president Seretse Khama Ian Khama, with many top jobs going to military officers and family members,” says the report.

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