President Ian Khama will face his first acid test of his international statesmanship this week when he presides over the fate of Lesotho’s democracy.
Well known for being outspoken and his confrontational approach on other countries in the continent and the world at large, Khama who is Chairman of Southern African Development Community (SADC) will this week preside over a review of a SADC report compiled by the Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi led Commission.
The Office of the President issued a statement last week that the Government of Botswana will host the Double Troika Summit of the SADC Heads of State and Government in Gaborone on 18th January.
According to the statement, the Double Troika Summit, which will be chaired by President Khama will review the political and security situation in the Southern Africa Region with particular focus on the situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Insiders this week confirmed that the troika will discuss the much awaited report on the death of former Lesotho army general, Maaparankwe Mahao.
The SADC Double Troika is made up of Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania and the Kingdom of Swaziland.
There had been calls in the region and elsewhere that the chairmanship of the Troika, the SADC organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation should go to Botswana. This was after President Khama allegedly criticised South Africa for its quite diplomacy on “disturbing” issues that needed SADC’s practical intervention.
At one stage Botswana was a lone voice in the region after it differed with SADC that elections in Zimbabwe were held in a fair and free atmosphere despite allegations of widespread rigging and systematic disenfranchisement.
Khama also broke ranks with the AU on the International Criminal Court’s outstanding warrant of arrest against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
When Khama ascended to the helm of SADC as its Chairman in August last year there was fanfare as critics wanted to see a different kind of stewardship of the organisation that has been labelled as a toothless dog and a club of associates. Thus observes are also waiting to see whether SADC under the stewardship of Khama would rein in one of its own in the form of Lesotho after deliberations and recommendations of the Phumaphi report in Gaborone.
Reports from Lesotho suggests that the Lesotho Government is likely to give SADC a hard time when called on to implement some of the recommendations contained in the report.
Despite being criticised recently of having toned down as a result of pushing a diplomatic approach that was unsustainable, Khama proved his critics wrong when he lashed out at Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza during his press briefing in August last year as SADC Chair. He was commenting on reports that Nkurunziza’s country had been plunged into violence after he ran for a third-term despite strong domestic opposition.
“It doesn’t matter how you got there. At the end of the day, once you sit in the office and you assume all the functions and duties of that office, you are serving your term,” he said. “In my opinion, he (Nkurunziza) has served two terms”, Khama, whose country has term limits and who is serving his own second and last, said.
Last week, Zimbabwe’s state run The Herald accused Khama of not actively leading discussions on issues affecting the SADC region.
“Many would be forgiven for thinking that the position (of SADC chairman) has been retired especially after the visible tenure of President Mugabe who set the seminal discussions on industrialisation and value addition,” writes the paper.
According to the Herald “Five months down the line, nobody can be sure what is going on in his (Khama) mind as the face of the region.” The Herald also recommends that Khama should come out of the closet and address regional issues such as drought and food security as well as power challenges.