China is reported to have prevailed over the Government of Botswana and the Dalai Lama to cancel the much awaited and scheduled visit to Botswana by the Tibet Spiritual leader.
In a press release dated 11th August, Dalai Lama’s Office states that “His Holiness the Dalai Lama has written to both His Excellency Ian Khama, President of the Republic of Botswana and Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu, President of Mind & Life Institute today, expressing profound regret at having to cancel his impending visit to Botswana due to exhaustion.”
Sunday Standard has turned up information showing that as the Chinese authorities mobilized various sections of the community in the country, President Khama’s Cabinet became divided.
This was after a Chinese delegation had held a meeting with Khama and his Cabinet and later travelled to Serowe to appeal to Khama’s uncles among them Bangwato Regent Sediegeng Kgamane.
A source close to the events as they unfolded said that a section of Cabinet led by Vice President Mokweetsi Masisi broke ranks with Khama and suggested that a public relations strategy be employed to cancel the Dalai Lama’s scheduled visit to Botswana. Hence a press release was issued by Dalai Lama’s office that he could not attend the Ubuntu/Botho conference due to fatigue.
It is understood that Masisi who is expected to succeed President Khama next year in April was uncomfortable with the consequences that his administration would have to deal with after Dalai Lama had visited Botswana. There are even claims that Chinese were able to convince Masisi to side with their government because a number of businessmen in Botswana have the Vice President’s ear.
“The question that some within Cabinet were asking themselves was; what action was China likely to take in the event that the Dalai Lama use Botswana as a ground to attack the Asian giant,” said an insider.
Apart from a divided Cabinet, African countries are also said to have bowed to China’s pressure not to allow Dalai Lama to use their skies as a transit points enroute to Botswana.
The scheduled visit of the Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has irked China, a major investor in Botswana, which regards him as a dangerous separatist. China, a major investor in the Botswana economy, is livid about the impending visit saying it hoped Botswana could make the “correct” decision about the trip.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told Sunday Standard on Friday that Botswana’s position on Dalai Lama has not changed. “We still stand by our position that was announced recently in Parliament,” she said.
At the time the Minister informed Parliament that “As government, we have met with the Chinese who have registered their displeasure, but we are failing to understand what their issue is. Our view is that he is a man of peace and we have done our security checks through Interpol. He does not pose any threat.”
She added that “Our immigration laws, as supported by our citizens, allow for anyone who does not pose a threat to come in. This country belongs to Batswana and we are not going to allow favours from other countries to dictate who comes here and who does not.”
According to the statement from the Tibet Spiritual leader’s office, “During the past few weeks, His Holiness has found that carrying out his activities has left him unusually tired. Although he had been eagerly looking forward to visiting Gaborone from August 15 to 20 and participating in the Mind & Life Conference and other engagements, His Holiness has reluctantly had to concede that his 82-year old body was telling him to rest.”
The statement says that in his letter to President Khama, the Dalai Lama expressed deep admiration, respect and gratitude to him and “the Government of Botswana for their unwavering principled stand to welcome him to their country, despite overwhelming pressure not to do so.”
It added that “His Holiness repeated his disappointment at being unable to come to Botswana at this time.”
The statement further states that “…Despite my absence, I urge all of you to continue with the conference, to hold valuable discussions and publish the results. Many of you are familiar with how I think and can share those ideas with others during the proceedings.”