The Umbrella for Democratic Change Head of Communications, Moeti Mohwasa, says that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s three-week absence in the country “is a disgrace and highly despicable.”
Last month, Masisi left on an international trip that is expected to last three full weeks as he hops from country to country in western Europe. Mohwasa describes this trip as dereliction of duty on the president’s part.
“It is not only strange and disheartening for a president to be away for such a long time when there are so many political and economic crises in the country,” says Mohwasa. “It is unheard of for a head of state and government to be outside the country officially for such a long time. It is a disgrace and highly despicable to say the least.”
On the other hand, Masisi has described his visit in harmless terms. Speaking to reporters before boarding OK 1, the presidential jet, he said that “I am about to leave on your behalf.” In broader sense, “your” referred to all Batswana. His itinerary covered Switzerland, Sweden and France.
Mohwasa’s point about a head of state being outside the country for as long as Masisi has being an international record appears to be valid. We ransacked the historical record and didn’t come up with proof to the contrary. To be clear, visits by some African heads of state tend to subvert the norm but nothing approaches what Masisi did. In 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya spent 15 days in New York City during a visit that included making an address to the annual UN General Assembly. Some cases are understandable – as when President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria spent a 103-day medical leave in the United Kingdom.
In one very important respect and against Africa’s history, Masisi’s three-week absence is a positive sign with regard to the national security situation. In the period of Masisi’s youth and of his father service in the government of President Sir Seretse Khama, African leaders were typically toppled when they were outside the country. That began on January 15, 1966 when Nigeria’s first president, Nnamdi Azikiwe, was removed from power in a military coup led that was by army officer called Kaduna Nzeogwu.
Azikiwe had left the country in late 1965, first for Europe, then on a cruise to the Caribbean. The following month, a group of Ghanaian army officers removed President Kwame Nkrumah from power when he was visiting Vietnam. In the past, the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security has alleged a plot to topple Masisi. The latter’s three-week absence is clear evidence that such threat currently doesn’t exist.