After years of appointing failed politicians from the ranks of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party as High Commissioners and Ambassadors, President Ian Khama has parted with that tradition by appointing two career diplomats to serve as Botswana’s Heads of Mission in Nigeria and Brazil.
Clifford Maribe becomes Botswana’s first High Commissioner Resident in Nigeria while Diabi Mmualefe becomes Botswana’s first Ambassador to Brazil.
Maribe, who has been with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for close to 20 years now, will be best remembered for the role he assumed as Botswana Government’s public face in the long battle against the London based NGO, Survival International.
The NGO spearheaded the campaign against the removal of Basarwa from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard following news of his appointment, Maribe said he would strive to open market opportunities for Botswana business men and women in Nigeria.
He said Nigeria is a big country in Africa occupying an influential status in the world.
With a population in excess of 140 million, Nigeria would be handy for a country like Botswana which is not only looking to diversify its economy but is also eager to secure international markets for its products.
Maribe underscored the fact that while he will be Botswana’s first High Commissioner to be based in Nigeria, the fact of the matter is that Botswana/Nigeria relations are decades old.
Nigeria was one of the earliest countries to ever set up their missions in Gaborone following independence.
The country also assisted Botswana with scholarships to train many public servants in the early days of independence.
The result is that many of today’s senior civil servants received their training in Nigeria.
These include President Ian Khama, who received his police training in Nigeria in the early seventies.
“Other than market opportunities for our business men and women, we will look at opportunities for further training of our people. Nigeria has many institutions of Higher Learning, and that is a very critical area we will explore,” Maribe said.
He said special attention will also go towards sports and culture.
This, he said, is because Nigeria is a world power in sports, especially football, having produced some of the best players to ply their trade in such advanced places like Europe and Asia.
“We should also not forget that Nigeria has vast oil resources. It is possible that if we apply our mind to it we could import oil from Nigeria.”
He said in view of the agreement between Botswana and Namibian Governments on the Walvis Bay dry port, it would now be comparatively easier to ferry oil from Nigeria through the Walvis Bay.
“This will in turn allow us to convince oil refinery companies to set up in Botswana,” said Maribe.
While one may assume that the CKGR saga is one phase of his career that Maribe would rather forget, the High Commissioner Designate speaks of the era with admiration, as a time when Botswana had to go out full force to counter “the lies” by Survival International.
“Through that phase I have learnt that in today’s world borders have collapsed. People can very easily send tones of false information about our country. We have to be prepared at all time.”
Just why did Survival International pick on Botswana and why did they not stop when government came up with the facts? “Survival International will always say what they are saying.
Whether it’s true or not to them that is not the issue. For them what is important is fundraising,” he said.
He said the irony is that the money raised by SI, apparently on behalf of Basarwa of the CKGR, never reached Basarwa.
“What have they done with the money? That’s for them. The fact of the matter is that they failed to tarnish the image of Botswana. A lot of people were finally able to see through SI lies.”
For his part, Mmualefe told The Sunday Standard that Brazil is a big force in international relations.
He said although Brazil is still advanced, the country still looks at itself as a developing country.
Mmualefe said there are many areas Botswana would like to benefit from Brazil’s experiences.
“There is the issue of raising the national herd. And Brazil is an accomplished cattle country. My hope is that we will tap on their skills, especially with the aim of benefiting young farmers here,” he said.
Still on cattle, Mmualefe said Brazil has a well developed leather industry from which Botswana has a lot to learn.