As President Mokgweetsi Masisi prepares to leave for New York where he will make his maiden speech to the General Assembly as substantive Head of State, there are fears within Government that he will be met by hostile online pressure group demonstrators posing as conservationists.
Botswana Government has unearthed information on an internationally financed campaign aimed at influencing government policy on conservation, Sunday Standard has learnt.
The protesters and picketers are financed by an international conservation lobby that has a strong representation in Botswana, including inside Government.
Botswana Government has also received intelligence that some of its top officials have been involved in this campaign, a large part of which uses “Avaaz” social media site to sign and push petitions aimed at pressuring Botswana Government to adopt certain lines in the ongoing contest of ideas over how the country should manage its tourism and wildlife resources.
A growing number of Avaaz activists have been signing online petitions calling on Botswana Government to keep the Hunting Ban policy.
More recently Avaaz activists have also been using their online platform to push Government to re-arm the Anti-Poaching Unit of the Department of Wildlife.
The Unit was recently disarmed of automatic assault rifles after Government argued that it was against the law for them to carry weapons of war.
Avaaz is an online pressure Group that coordinates online petitions and e-mail campaigns.
Founded in 2007, Avaaz corrals emails and petitions to political and corporate leaders to influence them on public policy.
With close to 48 million activists that call themselves followers, Avaaz is also heavily involved in fundraising.
Some of the Avaaz-raised money has found its way into Botswana’s wildlife related activists.
The site has recently become a powerful platform for protest and activism in the West.
Sources inside Government said they are aware and prepared of the risks that the President might face while in New York.
The response of Botswana Government has been to tighten the president’s security during his visit in the United States.
It has also come to the government attention that the recent saga surrounding “massacre” of governments was the beginning of a broader international campaign, linked to Avaaz aimed at influencing Government policy.
“The idea is not only to embarrass the president while he’s abroad. It also has to do with putting pressure on Government to behave in a certain way on matters that have to do with conservation,” said a senior official.
He continued to say that the recent controversy that was started by false allegations that 87 elephants had been killed by poachers in Botswana was timed to coincide with the president’s planned visits to Beijing and New York.