For a country that has lately been commenting on events happening far away from its borders, Botswana is uncharacteristically mum on the crisis playing itself out in Ukraine.
The reason, it turns out, is that Botswana has to gen up on little-known history of Crimea which, until a week ago, used to be part of Ukraine. Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister, Phandu Skelemani, says that before the current crisis, he personally didn’t know that Crimea, which Russia annexed last week, was an autonomous region.
To close this knowledge gap, the minister says that the government has asked “some of our friends” (Europeans, he reveals) to provide the required information. Botswana’s ambassador to Sweden, is assisting in this task. The absence of the Russian ambassador has not helped because Skelemani says that he would have sought some enlightenment on the Crimea issue.
“One wants to be informed about this issue before making any pronouncements on it. We need to find about the history of the region. Does the autonomy of Crimea mean that it can take decisions? Botswana is a unitary republic and regions like North East, Kgatleng and Gantsi don’t have any autonomy. We need to study historical documents whether Crimea operated along the same sort of arrangement or not. When all the facts are in – and if necessary, then we can make our pronouncement on the matter and point the finger of blame where it ought to be,” the minister asserts.
Some 60 years ago, the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian empire. This happened under Nikita Khrushchev who was from Ukraine. This past week, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said that such transfer was illegal.
Under President Ian Khama, Botswana has been making all sort of commentary on political issue from neighbouring to far away countries. The latest was on North Korea which Botswana broke diplomatic ties with because of its human rights record.