Thursday, March 4, 2021

‘Batswana, Basotho share a common ancestry’

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you back to Botswana after your last visit here, which incidentally was on the same month, eleven years ago. ?We are humbled that you managed to find time from your busy schedule to honour our invitation.  On behalf of all Batswana, I wish to convey our sincere gratitude to you and members of your entourage for this visit which symbolizes our close affinity.  I hope you will find your stay here comfortable and most memorable.  ?I note with appreciation that our two nations have developed and maintained strong historical ties spanning across many years.?I remember well when you were last here you confirmed how our forefathers laid the first foundation of the cordial relations that continue to grow and blossom between our two countries and people today.  ?We recall with great admiration how King Moshoeshoe I, weaved a tapestry of alliances in the 19th century, and set about nation-building that was second to none.  ?A consummation of the relationship of the Sotho-Tswana groups was again in full display during the 20th century when our forefathers collaborated to prevent Boer expansionist agendas of incorporating the High Commission Territories.  

This historical account serves to illustrate that Batswana and Basotho indeed share a common ancestry, cultural affinities and linguistic similarities. ?Such are the striking similarities between our two countries that in two year’s time we will both mark a huge milestone of 50 years of independence, having been granted such in the same year of 1966.

In building towards these Golden Jubilees, our two countries have to continue working together tirelessly and collaborate in every aspect of human development to deliver on the development objectives of our shared vision, for mutual benefit of our people and the region. ?I am reminded, Your Majesty, that even though the target date for our national Visions is four years apart, there are great similarities amongst the guiding pillars and key deliverables.┬á┬á We note with satisfaction the progress your country is making towards attainment of your National Vision 2020 which, is underpinned by the overarching objective of a “stable democracy and a united, prosperous nation at peace with itself and its neighbours.” ?I therefore wish to pledge the commitment of my government to further deepen and widen the scope of our cooperation to drive economic growth and diversification for the mutual benefit of our peoples.?It is my firm belief that the respective implementing sectors will diligently pursue further areas of cooperation in a timely manner, implement the commitments already made under the Joint Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation (JCETC) signed in May 2003.

One of the cardinal initiatives under this Joint Commission is to explore prospects of sourcing the much needed resource-water-from the highlands of your country.?I hope you will agree with me that the tri-lateral Memorandum of Understanding which was signed in March 2013 by our two countries and South Africa, under the auspices of the Orange Senqu Water River Commission is a giant step in the realization of this envisaged water project. Our economies continue to face enormous pressure to meet the needs of our people amid the prevailing challenges posed by climate change, rising energy costs, food insecurity, and the lingering effects of the world economic and financial crisis.  ?On the issue of food security the agricultural sector remains pivotal for our respective countries and the region as well as meeting the global goal of poverty eradication. In this regard, I am happy to note that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Agriculture between our two countries has been finalized and awaits signature. I therefore urge our respective two Ministers to ensure that this MoU is signed at the earliest opportunity.?Your Majesty, at this juncture allow me to note trends taking place in our region.  A good number of countries in our region, including Botswana will hold elections this year.  In this context, I commend the people of the Republic of South Africa who have just marked a milestone of twenty years of democracy in that country and the holding of free and fair elections.  We extend our congratulations to President Jacob Zuma and his party the ANC for their re-election.

The successful conduct of these elections in particular, demonstrates their individual and collective commitment to the common values of democracy, development, political stability and accountability.┬á We must as SADC work tirelessly to build on the principles of the holding of credible elections.?I wish to reiterate that Botswana will continue to take a strong position on all elections within the SADC region.┬á It is therefore, our hope that all upcoming elections will adhere to the guidelines that we set for ourselves.?Further afield on the Continent there are still a number of security challenges that face us, including terrorism. Nigeria has been going through a difficult time.┬á The abduction of school girls recently as well as the regular killing of innocent people shows total disregard for human life a well as the rights of the most innocent, the children.┬á Kenya has also not been spared from an increasing spate of acts of terror.?These barbaric acts can never be justified for whatever cause, and must receive our strongest condemnation and contempt.┬á We hope that Kenya and Nigeria will overcome these challenges so that their citizens can safely go about their day to day activities in peace.┬á In this regard Botswana joins others in offering messages of support and solidarity.?Your Majesty, we have been observing the situation in Egypt and note with great concern that, ever since the coup that ended Former President Morsi’s increasingly dictatorial rule, the country continues to experience instability and turbulence.┬á We hope that as Egypt prepares to hold elections, the people of that country will take the opportunity to embrace democracy and restore constitutional normalcy and demonstrate tolerance of political opponents.┬á

The resort to violence by any party against their opponents is as alarming as it is unacceptable.?Your Majesty, on South Sudan, I am sure you will agree that the people of that country have endured too much suffering, and they deserve peace.  It is our hope that recent diplomatic efforts bear fruit towards finding a peaceful and durable solution to the conflict in that country.  In this regard, we commend the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) for their lead role in the on-going peace process.   We remain hopeful that the young Republic of South Sudan can still summon the common resolve to overcome the current challenge and we remain ready to help them in their development efforts.??With regard to the situation in Syria, once again we are deeply saddened by the collective failure of the international community to bring to a halt the continued carnage that is being conducted with such reckless abandon. 

We have seen Red lines and Deadlines come and go.  We once again wish to condemn the Syrian regime and some of the opposing militia who are engaged in acts of crimes against humanity.  I cannot begin to imagine that once the conflict ends, how huge the enormous task of rebuilding lives and infrastructure will be.?Your Majesty, with regard to the situation in Ukraine, it may have been observed that Botswana abstained at the recent United Nations Assembly vote on the matter.  The political situation in that country remains complex and precarious.  It is complex because of too many competing interests both from within and outside that country.  These highly emotive internal tensions, exacerbated by external influence and interests, have ignited and continue to inflame actions that have resulted in violence and loss of life.  This situation therefore calls for a cautious impartial and responsible response from the international community without sides being taken.?Our opinion is that the solution to the crisis in Ukraine should come from the Ukrainians themselves, with the assistance of a neutral party like the United Nations playing a supportive role to these nationally driven efforts.

Your Majesty, as you can no doubt appreciate that the international community continues to grapple with a myriad of peace and security challenges, including in our own region.  Therefore we are confident that as your country assumes the Chairmanship of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, later this year, you will continue to spearhead efforts towards finding lasting and durable solutions.  You can count on our support during your tenure of office.?Your Majesty, let me once again wish you and your delegation a pleasant and fruitful stay in Botswana.

This was a statement by President Ian Khama at the State Banquet in honour of his majesty King Letsie III of the Kingdom of Lesotho on the occasion of the state visit to Botswana on May 12, 2014.?

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