Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Trump victory has exposed Botswana Government’s diplomatic immaturity

United States President-elect, Donald Trump is an iconoclast who ran an unconventional campaign to beat to the pulp, establishment insiders who had sought to dismiss him as a clown.

In the next two months, the world will have to fully adjust on how to treat him as he saunters into the White House, there not as a court jester but the decider in chief; the most powerful man in the world.

In the meantime nobody really knows exactly what to make of Donald Trump.

He could be unpredictable – sometimes charming, immensely pleasant and self-deprecating.

He could the next minute come across as a vindictive and even a treacherously unhinged authoritarian populist.

Until he is sworn in, all of us are in a wait and see mode, which tragically for Botswana, President Ian Khama chose not to observe.

During the campaign season for the White House President Khama turned Trump into a butt of his many jokes, effectively dismissing him as a buffoon.

Khama never thought Americans would ever elect Trump to be their president

To be fair to him, President Khama was not the only one.

In the United Kingdom, some members of the British House of Commons even toyed with the idea of banning Trump from ever visiting the United Kingdom.

They called him all sorts of names.

Now Trump has won the race to become the 45th President of the United States.

And the British MPs are running helter-skelter trying to find ways to rebuild the bridges that they destroyed.

Even the most powerful states like Japan and south Korea have been literally lining up not only to congratulate him and also pledge their loyalty, but also to denigrate themselves at his feet and tell the world how foolish they had been not to have seen his victory coming.

Ever a self-obsessed, raw attention seeker, Trump is clearly relishing every attention he is receiving especially from those who not so long ago rooted for his opponent, Hillary Clinton or “the crooked Hillary” as he called her.

Trump is not yet the President of the United States, but Botswana is already being consumed by guilty conscience.

While many countries across the world have already congratulated Trump on his victory, Botswana Government, often among the first to do so under such circumstances is still to congratulate Trump and the people of America on what the world agrees has been a historic victory ÔÇô whatever the real or perceived personal flaws of the winning candidate .

As a country we are paying a price for our president’s diplomatic excesses.

Authorities here are falling all over to atone for Khama’s diplomatic gaffes. And it’s all playing out in public.

The Secretary General of the Botswana Democratic Party, Ntuane, says President Khama’s statements against Trump were made in jest.

That is so manifestly untrue.

The Senior Private Secretary to the President, Brigadier George Tlhalerwa has been quoted saying international norm dictates that Botswana should wait until Trump becomes substantive president of the United States.

This is far worse unpardonable, more unbelievable and potentially much more damaging than the exceedingly implausible excuse given by the BDP Secretary General.

We are left hoping that owing to Botswana’s insignificance in the world geopolitics the president’s unpalatable comments will somehow evade the attention of Trump and his aides.

But that is little consolation.

The damage has been done.

We should as a country admit our mistakes, and move on.

The tragedy of it all is that it was unprovoked, irrational, unwarranted and un-statesmanlike.

Botswana should go ahead and congratulate Trump and stop playing face-saving games.

If in the future President Trump plans to make a tour of Africa including spreading largesse around the continent, his advisors will most definitely pour through past documents with a fine comb to establish just what some of the African leaders had thought of him prior to his victory.

The outcome of such an exercise might play a key role in determining which African countries President Trump will visit, which ones he will avoid and which ones he might identify as worthy of using to set examples to others for the future.

Botswana will no doubt end up paying heavily for the past offenses of its leader.

The worst thing to befall Botswana under the circumstances might be a decision by President Trump to close down the American embassy in Gaborone ÔÇô out of spite, just our leader’s attitude towards him was informed by spite.

One of the cardinal rules in international diplomacy is to never interfere in the internal electoral processes of another sovereign country.

This includes not publicly declaring preference of one candidate over the other.

In Botswana there is a worrying patter emerging of us breaking this elementary principle.

It started in the last elections in the United Kingdom where our President publicly supported the Tories against Labour.

It was repeated again during a Europe referendum where our President openly supported the Remain camp against Brexit.

With regards to Trump the damage has been far greater.

We can learn from mature countries.

In the last French elections, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel was faced with a difficult choice between the then incumbent Nikolas Sarkozy and challenger Francois Hollande.

Sarkozy and Merkel had over the years become very close ÔÇô at policy and also at personal levels.

Merkel, those who know anything about world politics is easily the most powerful leader in Europe.

She is the guardian, underwriter, custodian as well as midwife of the European Union project.

Yet she had to bite the bullet as she helplessly watched her friend being torn to pieces across the border in France.

This is how our president should have behaved; whatever his admiration for Hillary Clinton.

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