Thursday, October 22, 2020

Khama’s diplomatic breakthrough on Lesotho enhances Botswana’s international stature

It had been a long while since Botswana had anything to show in the regional geopolitics.

There was a time was when the country’s opinion was highly sought after on matters that had a direct bearing on the direction of relations and dynamics among Southern African countries.

This has mainly been a result of the isolationist stance that our government chose to adopt since 2008.

The reluctance by President Ian Khama to engage with his peers has not helped Botswana anyhow.

Of course we admit and concede that the situation has been made worse by our weakening economy.

Diplomats are taught as part of their elementary lessons that every country’s influence and leverage on the international scene is a function of the size of that country’s economy, which ultimately has a bearing on such matters like the size of the army and indeed the depth and development of its arts and culture.

Not many Batswana can remember the last time that  the Botswana Defence Force played any active peace keeping role in Africa.

And as we all know there has not been a shortage of armed conflicts in Africa.

This week however things have turned somewhat different.

The eyes of the entire world were focused on Botswana when President Khama hosted a security and political organ of SADC that is currently seized on finding lasting solution to the political and security impasse paralyzing the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Things went on to a bad start when the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Phakalitha Mosisili played hardball and insisted that he was not going to receive the enquiry report that SADC had sanctioned because it would interfere with internal legal processes playing out in Lesotho.

The meeting was a high powered one.

And the fact that SADC’s foremost economic heavyweight South Africa was represented by President Jacob Zuma who was accompanied by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa sent a clear signal to the world that what was being discussed in Gaborone was taken seriously even by the region’s continent superpower.

Inside the meeting, things however moved from bad to worse.

By the end of the meeting it seemed that the big guns had failed to sway Lesotho into towing any sensible line.

With a heavy heart, Zuma emerged from the meeting to tell the world that Lesotho faced possible suspension from SADC. It was the only path open to SADC to knock sense into Lesotho, he added.

His sentiments were echoed by the Vice President of Zimbabwe who had attended on behalf of President Robert Mugabe.

If there were any doubts about the seriousness of the situation, the President of Mozambique laid those to rest when he told his country’s media that a SADC Summit had to be called with one item on the agenda ÔÇô the suspension of Lesotho.

For a while it seemed like it was now a done deal that Lesotho was on her way out of SADC. Oddly enough, Mosisili who helplessly and somewhat aimlessly moved around, seemed somewhat resigned to that eventuality too.

Enters President Khama who convinced Mosisili to stay behind, when everyone left and continue talking with him when everybody had gone home.

To his credit Mosisili agreed.

Alone, President Khama pleaded and ultimately convinced Mosisili to rethink his position and to accept the SADC report of enquiry by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi.

The rest is history.

Agreeing to receive the report by Prime Minister Mosisili has not been a sign of weakness.

Rather it is a sign of true statesmanship on his part.

It is a demonstration of patriotism, love for his country and indeed a true concern for the welfare of his people.

Whatever the domestic backlash and fallouts Mosisili might face back home from his followers and also from members of his coalition Government, he should not have a hard time convincing detractors why he chose hard decisions over an easy way out.

The people of Lesotho have suffered long enough as a result of the hot-headedness of their political leaders, but also the rogue nature of their security infrastructure.

Possible suspension of the country was not going to make matters any better for ordinary Basotho.

If anything such a highroad was going to play into the hands of political and security hardliners in Lesotho who do not want to play by international rules.

Looked at from the overall balance, President Khama’s diplomatic breakthrough is highly commendable.

Our hope is that it signals Botswana’s second coming into the world’s community.

We never had any plausible reason to turn our backs against the world community.

Markedly, Botswana’s reentry into the international scene has coincided with the country’s chairmanship of SADC.

It can only enhance our international stature.

It shows that diplomacy works. It also shows that as Botswana, if we accept our responsibilities we still have a lot to give to the world.

This is a moment for which we should be delightful as Batswana ÔÇô all of us, regardless of political allegiance or affiliation.

It is a moment that should unite us with pride. And we must use our time as Chair of SADC to the fullest by exporting the values for which we had become famous before our misguided exit from the community of nations.

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