Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Government “lies” cost flood victims international aids

Scores of Batswana whose lives were destroyed by floods that ravaged parts of the country earlier this year lost out on international humanitarian support because government “lied” to the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Organization (UN).

A guarded response by the UN resident director Anders Pederson is that had a second wave of floods followed Botswana would not have coped.

A source inside the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) under Office of the President told Sunday Standard that government lied to the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Organization (UN) about the extent of the disaster, in order to avoid international humanitarian intervention.

It is understood that the Director of the NDMO, Moagi Baleseng, rejected the help of the UN offered by Anders Pederson, the Resident Coordinator of the world body in Botswana who had enquired to establish if there was anything his office could do to assist.

“The NDMO Director gave Pederson the impression that there was no cause for alarm and that the situation was under control, only for the UN Representative to find out that the situation was actually very bad such that people had to be moved to higher ground and be helped with tents and food baskets,” revealed the source.

There the floods covered most parts of the country in the central and northern districts and some areas, such as Tshwaane, Dukwi, Mosetse, including Dukwi Refugee Camp, were hardest hit.  

Baleseng, on the other hand, told Sunday Standard that, “I never lied to the Resident Coordinator of the UN nor would I have anything to hide from his office.”

He said that he told Pederson at the time that judging from the NDMO’s collaboration and work with the District Commissioners, there was no cause to ask for outside help.

In addition, Baleseng further stated that, “for some reason the Resident Coordinator seemed not to be content with our position or decision not to declare a crisis to the extent that I had to put it to him that even in the event we had to go his route protocol dictates that we first advise the President and Cabinet whereupon a decision would then be made to mobilise foreign missions and or determine the relevant stakeholders.”

Baleseng explained that although in the number of meetings, at least two that he recalled specifically, which they had at his office with Pederson, the issue of their having to ask for humanitarian intervention kept coming up but “we jointly produced the country report which covered everything”. The report, according to Baleseng is available from the UN website.

In an interview with the UN official to establish what exactly transpired, he initially pointed out that he was not aware of any complaint relating to the DMO response. He further indicated that they worked together in the northern part of the country on disasters, including the Botswana Red Cross (BRC) and they never experienced problems.

The UN Diplomat held the view that the NDMO’s response was reasonably good given available resources and what many NDMOs in the region would generally have done faced with similar situations.

“It must be noted, however, that the UN office stands ready to support government in times of disasters and I have always told government many times of our readiness to help”, commented Pederson. “In fact, the only concern we repeatedly expressed was that in the event of a second wave of flooding the warehouses would be out of stock and therefore not easily replenished within a reasonable space of time to tackle the situation.”

The UN Resident Coordinator added that fortunately a second wave did not materialize.

From Baleseng’s point of view, there is a tendency by some international organizations, especially Non- governmental organizations to ride on the wave of circumstances such as presented by the floods at issue, to qualify their own proposals for funding. In the same vein, he made reference to one such NGO which he claimed to have had glimpse of their funding proposal during the period under discussion using the situation as their justification. ┬á

 His remarks were made in apparent reference to the BRC as they manage the Dukwi Refugee Camp jointly with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

 Baleseng admitted that the UN official had asked him to accompany him to the affected areas, especially Dukwi Refugee Camp, which, like Mosetse, Tshwaane and Dukwi Village, was situated in a flood plain but he declined as he had to be in his office to receive reports.

Regarding Baleseng’s remarks, Mable Rammekwa, Secretary General of the BRC, indicated that her organization is an auxiliary body of government – established by an act of parliament, and that they interact with NDMO in several structures where they exchange on issues of mutual concern, therefore she would rather reserve her comment.

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