Sunday, July 14, 2024

Khama: A fugitive with diplomatic privileges?

This past week the government set aside its long standing media blackout on former president Ian Khama to announce his impending trip to the UK and Italy. 

To some observers, the move may have signaled an olive branch from the Office of the President. But to some, it was simply just a follow up to give credence to an earlier statement made by the controversial France Museveni pseudo Facebook account.

The announcement of Khama’s impending visit, by Acting Permanent Secretary for Government Communications John Dipowe, might have been a well calculated move to grant an official confirmation to Museveni’s insinuations.

“The office of the President wishes to inform members of the Public that His Excellency Lt Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the former President of the Republic of Botswana will undertake a private visit to London, the United Kingdom, from 26 June to 2nd July 2022,” the statement reads.

Just a couple of hours earlier, the Museveni pseudo account (believed to be sponsored by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security) had posted a statement insinuating that “there is a big meeting scheduled in the UK, power hungry individuals have gathered there with some former spies from Tibet and Lebanon to discuss the future of Botswana. Some consultants will be engaged to position the natural and life leader of UDC [Duma Boko] for presidency of Botswana in the remaining 26 months before parliament is dissolved.”

The post followed an announcement by another Facebook account by a Boko sympathizer announcing the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader would be in the UK. Speaking to Sunday Standard on Friday following the Chief Executive Officer of Khama’s SKI Foundation, Mogomotsi Kaboyamodimo said they were shocked at the announcement given the former president no longer enjoys his retirement benefits following his self-imposed exile to South Africa.

“No he has not been enjoying all his retirement benefits.  We don’t know what government is up to in announcing something that they ought to do as a matter of duty.  You will be aware that as we speak Khama is denied access to his official residence in Gaborone by government despite the fact that it is his entitlement in terms of his retirement benefits,” Kaboyamodimo said, adding, “.  You will remember that they are yet to refund his expenses that he incurred on the private visit to India that government refused to facilitate.”

It is not clear why the government would choose to announce this particular visit to UK. Just last month (May) Khama announced on his Facebook page that he would be visiting Monaco at the invitation of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene.

“The Former President has been invited as a guest at a special event at the Palace to launch Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation’s chasing zero Campaign. Through this campaign, the Foundation aims to help eradicate Rhino poaching in South Africa and Africa as a whole. He has also been invited to attend Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix and other several activities planned by the Foundation. His Excellency has also been invited to attend the launch of Forbes Afrique’s May Issue, dedicated to Sports and Creative Industries. The launch will be held during the Festival of Cannes, on May 26th at La Villa Forbes, Cannes,” Khama said in a Facebook post.

This was however never communicated by the government. Khama has been formally charged with 14 counts relating to illegal possession of firearms in what is Botswana’s first attempt at criminal prosecution of a previous head of state. The former president was not at the court when the charges were announced, having fled to South Africa in November 2021 citing threats on his life from the current administration. His brother Tshekedi Khama would later join him this year (2022) following interrogations on the matter. 

Sunday Standard first broke the story about Khama fleeing to South Africa following a search warrant at his official residence in Gaborone. Khama however denied he was fleeing, although he has still not returned to the country since. 

He told SA media that he was in the country for meetings and not to flee arrest, as “some media” outlets reported.

“In an interview with Daily Maverick, Ian Khama dismissed reports that he was attempting to flee arrest in Botswana, but he said that his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, had been using state institutions to go after him since their relations turned sour two years ago,” he was quoted as having said.


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