Ian Khama's love affair with the West (Africa Review)

span xml:lang=”EN-ZWOver the years, Botswana’s President, Ian Khama has cut the figure of a lone ranger when it comes to African issues. On many occasionsspan xml:lang=”EN-ZW, the diamond-rich nation has distanced itself from issues affecting its regional and continental allies, especially where interests of its western allies are involved.
Late last year after being elected deputy chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Mr Khama failed to show up for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s chairmanship acceptance speech. Mr Khama did not attend the opening ceremony either.
Later, Botswana defended the absence saying the leader left due to other commitments after the summit’s closing session went beyond its alloted time.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMonths before that, former Foreign Affairs minister, Mr Phandu Skelemani, had made it clear that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was on trial at International Criminal Court (ICC), was not welcome in Botswana.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”If he refuses to go (to The Hague) then we have a problem. That means that they do not know the rule of law. You can’t establish a court and refuse to go when it calls you. If he refuses, he won’t set foot here,” Mr Skelemani said then.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWThis was despite Mr Kenyatta’s cooperation with the ICC.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMr Skelemani later apologised for his inopportune avowal and analysts said his apology was only because his comments seemed to pre-judge the Kenya leader.
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span xml:lang=”EN-ZWThis was at the back of Mr Khama going against the African Union (AU), saying sitting heads of state should be brought before the ICC. The AU had resolved that no sitting African head of state should be taken to the international court.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWIn 2010, Botswana applied the same principle on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who, despite an international arrest warrant, was welcomed in many African capitals.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWBotswana strongly declared they would happily detain al-Bashir and hand him over to the (ICC), defying pressure from the AU to ignore the arrest warrant.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”We have not surrendered the sovereignty of the country to AU,” Mr Skelemani said at the time.
Mr Khama was also caught ‘offside’ when he accused his Zimbabwe counterpart, Mr Mugabe, of rigging elections and dismissed the Zimbabwean leader as “illegitimately elected”. Mr Mugabe hit back and labelled Mr Khama a political novice and an agent of the West.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWBotswana was one of the first countries to break off relations with the late Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 as it became apparent he was murdering protestors in cold blood. On the other hand, the AU was making collective efforts to get the international community off Gadaffi’s back.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWNo clear foreign policy
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMr Mothusi Kwape, a Politics and Administration scholar, is of the view that Botswana has no clear foreign policy.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”We have no clear foreign policy the leadership has never come out clear on what our position is. I suppose we go with what the President feels at a given time and nobody will ever know what he is thinking,” Mr Kwape says.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMr Takalo Sebolawa, another Politics scholar, calls it “applying a selective stance”.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”It would seem there are certain issues given prominence more than others. Khama’s administration has not been consistent and everyone wonders why it is so,” Mr Sebolawa says.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWThe only time Botswana seemed to take a stand against the US, he says, was when the country recently attacked the United States over the US embassy’s chorus of disapproval about the Botswana government’s treatment of the media.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWPolitical analyst Lesole Machacha considers the stance a way of protecting diplomatic relationships.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”We approach these controversies bearing in mind diplomatic relationships we do not want to end up finding ourselves tempering with our development and growth opportunities,” he says.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMr Machacha also observes that Botswana usually takes any stance supported by the US as it has received a lot of aid from the West.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”It is not a bad thing as it ensures the country continues being peaceful and to prosper,” he adds.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWHowever, Innocent Selathwa, a political journalist with Botswana Gazette, argues it is spinelessness.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”We always try to avoid bruising our fellow Africans and we sit back. It’s not a good thing for us because the day we face a major crisis we may not have a lot of friends to come to our aid,” he says.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWSouth Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, Mr Julius Malema, once attacked Mr Khama, calling for an urgent government change in the small southern African country.
The former leader of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League said he would initiate the establishment of a “command team” to work towards united opposition against the “puppet regime” of Mr Khama.
His remarks coincided with suspicions Botswana were tipped to host America’s Africa Command (Africom) military base in Africa.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMr Malema and, more recently, five of his EFF legislators were barred from visiting Botswana following those remarks.
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span xml:lang=”EN-ZWA US cable leaked to WikiLeaks had quoted Mr Skelemani as saying: “In Africa, we have set ourselves as a target because we talk too much.”
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWThe cable says Botswana government fears its citizens living in other countries are at risk because of the country’s position on SADC and AU controversies.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWThe cable further reveals how Mr Khama and his ministers discussed sensitive issues with diplomats from western countries while diplomats from fellow African countries were shut out.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWOne such incident came after a contentious SADC summit where the Zimbabwean government of national unity was discussed. President Khama reportedly invited ambassadors from the US, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union (EU) to a meeting at his office to pour out his heart about the summit.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWBotswana government spokesman, Dr Jeff Ramsay, however, denies that Botswana is isolated from the rest of Africa.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”I would not agree that we are isolated. We are a small country, but we have been on peace keeping missions. When Mozambique have floods we send aid,” Ramsay said.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWAbsconding AU meetings
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMeanwhile, Mr Khama continues absconding from important African meetings that seek to address some of Africa’s major controversies.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWOpposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president, Dumelang Saleshando, agrees that Mr Khama shies away from cooperation with other African countries.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMr Saleshando has previously called on those close to President Ian Khama to “invest time in persuading him that his absence from meetings like the United Nations General Assembly and African Union (AU) summits does not advance the interests of the country”.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWMr Khama has never attended a UN General Assembly or AU Heads of State summit.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZWAnalysts conclude the sooner Botswana realises key issues of international concern determining the future of the global economy are decided by the UN and AU, the better.
span xml:lang=”EN-ZW”The world is becoming a global village developments in one part of the world are dependent on decisions taken elsewhere,” Mr Saleshando says.
Source: Politics