Head of the Botswana Muslim Association, Al-Hidayah Foundation, Sheikh Ismail Kayondo’s deportation from Botswana this week has touched off speculation that government has launched a programme of systematic persecution of Muslims.
The Ugandan Muslim cleric who has been living in Botswana for the past five years was on Thursday slapped with a presidential decree declaring him a prohibited immigrant.
This comes a few months after the government deported some Muslim businessmen whom, it was claimed, were linked to Al Qaeda.
Members of the Muslim community in Molepolole where Kayondo was based, view the deportation order as a move to contain the growth of the Muslim community in the village. The Molepolole Muslim community is believed to be the fastest growing in Botswana.
Kayondo had set up the Al-Hidayah Foundation which raised scholarships for Molepolole children, sponsored feeding schemes in Kweneng, also producing Islamic literature. Currently, there are 18 Batswana students in Uganda and South Africa who are sponsored by the Al-Hidayah Foundation.
Bojotlhe Lerako, one of the parents whose daughter is being sponsored by the Al Hidayah Foundation in South Africa, told Sunday Standard that plain clothes police officers have been visiting her home inquiring about Kayondo and his sponsorship programme.
Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, confirmed that he was aware that President Ian Khama had declared Kayondo a ‘persona non grata’.
Confirming Kayondo’s deportation, Seretse said despite complaints by Molepolole residents, the President is not obliged to disclose his reasons for deporting Kayondo.
“To say that His Excellency is against Islam is unfounded,” he said, pointing out that in the past months two pastors of the Christ Embassy Church were deported and nobody made an issue about their religion.
He said that Botswana permits freedom of religious association. “It is not so much that the reasons are phony. The laws which are being implemented are not whims of the President,” said Seretse.
He told Sunday Standard that the only reason he could disclose was that Kayondo is not viewed as somebody who can continue living in Botswana, adding, “O se bone tholwana borethe,” or “All that glitters is not gold”.