Thursday, October 29, 2020

Diplomats file sexual harassment claims against ambassador

A Botswana ambassador in one of the country’s major trading partners has so far been allowed to get away with sexual harassment complaints against him, while his alleged victims are being shunted around.

At least two Batswana women diplomats have filed complaints with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation against the ambassador.
The Sunday Standard can reveal that so far no action has been taken against the ambassador, while one of the two women who have filed the complaint has already been transferred to a different mission and the other is due to be transferred soon.

Sources inside Botswana’s Foreign Service have revealed that all this is not atypical, saying sexual harassment and sexual assault is an epidemic in the Foreign Service. “There is an attitude in the foreign service that has been there for sometime that female diplomats should suck up to their male bosses and take whatever is dished out to them.”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Charles Ntwayagae told Sunday Standard this week that “there are always rumours flying around without any concrete evidence. You know that there will always be rumours and we can not act on rumours. All I can tell you is that no such cases have been officially reported to me.”

When Sunday Standard insisted that it is aware of at least two official complaints filed with the ministry against an ambassador and furnished the Permanent Secretary with the names of the female diplomats who had filed the complaints, Ntwayagae said, “Personally, I have not received any official complaint, but I can not say there are no such complaints. You have to understand that such complaints pass through various levels before they reach me. My senior colleagues would first explore the facts before passing on the cases to me. Maybe the cases you are referring to are still being investigated by my deputy or the Director of Ministry Management who, after establishing the facts, would then refer the cases to me for action. But I personally have not officially received any sexual harassment complaint.
“I am not saying there are no such cases, and I can assure you that if they are officially brought to me I would definitely take action.”

Sources inside the Foreign Service say there were fears that Botswana could find itself facing diplomatic embarrassment if the cases are not resolved internally and the victims are ultimately forced to report the cases with police services in the host country.

Two years ago, Botswana suffered similar embarrassment when one of its envoys was stripped of diplomatic immunity by the United States government after a female colleague had filed assault charges against him.

The Botswana envoy was ultimately cleared by the US courts, but not before the country’s dirty linen was aired in public, with secret tapes from the Botswana embassy being played in court, revealing how one embassy employee was allegedly instructed by a former permanent secretary to make secret recordings of conversations by the Botswana ambassador in the US and other staff members.

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