Having earlier stated that President Festus Mogae has sent a congratulatory message to President Mwai Kibaki, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation now says that “H.E. (Mogae) has not sent a message.”
This past week, the ministry put out a press release through which it sought to clarify the issue of Mogae congratulating Kibaki. According to the statement, signed by Charles Ntwaagae, the permanent secretary, the Botswana High Commission in Kenya “inadvertently transmitted a message that had been withheld pending further instruction from Botswana. H.E. President Mogae had not, and indeed has not, authorised the release of any such congratulatory message.”
The Sunday Standard sought further clarification with regard to the specific instructions that were given to the High Commission. According to Ntwaagae, the mission was supposed to withhold the message pending further instructions from Botswana. The mission made a ‘mistake’ by sending the message without receiving such instructions.
With regard to why it was necessary for Mogae to write a message that would not be immediately released, Ntwaagae says that standard procedure is to “immediately” dispatch such messages after a winner is declared and/or sworn into office.
“However, the transmission of such messages may be delayed due to a number of factors such as a situation where the results are in dispute and being lawfully challenged or there are clear instructions that this may happen. This unfortunately is the situation that followed the December 2007 elections in Kenya hence the decision to withhold the message in order to assess unfolding events, including mediation efforts by the international community,” Ntwaagae says.
The PS further explained that messages of this nature originate from the Office of the President, go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which then forwards them through a Botswana mission accredited to the receiving state or through the receiving state’s resident/non-resident mission accredited to Botswana.
To the direct question of who exactly passed Mogae’s message prematurely, Ntwaagae would only say it was “the Botswana High Commission.”
This, he further revealed, was done on January 18, some 19 days after Kibaki was sworn in as president.
There is also the question of how, based on precedent, the situation can be reversed back to what it was before Kibaki received the message. The United States government withdrew its congratulatory message soon after it learnt that the outcome of the Kenyan poll had serious legitimacy problems. As it turns out, this is not an option that the Botswana government is considering.
Ntwaagae’s explanation is that “H.E. has not sent a message and as such the question of withdrawal does not arise.”