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Humans · Nature · Economy

Botswana - a small country that stands up to the big boys

April 09th, 2018
in:Humans, Nature, Economy
by:Bob Koigi
located in:Botswana, China, South Africa
tags:corruption, Donald Trump, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, stability

When Donald Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as ‘shitty countries,’ for his perceived parasitic nature of immigrants from these countries on US economy, the international uproar was palpable.

But while it took time for majority of African countries to respond, Botswana swiftly fired back, issuing a blistering reply in what has come to define its tough stance on any country that disregards its sovereignty and disrespects its people.

“The government of Botswana is wondering why President Trump must use this descriptor and derogatory word when talking about countries with whom the US has had cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations for so many years,” the statement from the Ministry of International Affairs & Cooperation read in part.

And while the rest of Africa, including the African Union, later issued subtle statements to condemn the incendiary comments, Botswana made its displeasure categorical and bare. “Botswana has accepted US citizens within her borders over the years and continues to host US guests and senior government officials. That is why we view the utterances by the current American president as highly irresponsible‚ reprehensible and racist,” the statement continued.

Yet this is not the first time the Southern African country with a population of two million people has stood up to the ‘big boys’ when it felt its sovereignty was being insulted. In December last year it blasted US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley when he implied that the US would institute unspecified actions against countries that would oppose the US on the vote to determine the status of Jerusalem at the general assembly.

“This threatening and grossly inappropriate communication, whose purpose would be to undermine the Sovereignty of Botswana as an independent country.” The statement further argued the country was no one’s puppet and would vote based on its foreign policy principles.

In yet another instance last year when the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, Dalai Lama, announced he would visit the country, China reached out to Botswana expressing its reservation with the country hosting the leader. And as the diplomatic spat persisted, Botswana stood its ground insisting it was no one’s colony and vowed to proceed with the visit. The trip never took place after Dalai Lama fell ill.

Even in Africa, Botswana has never shied away from making its voice and stand know.

As the Democratic Republic of Congo’s political stalemate escalates with the refusal of the current president Joseph Kabila to call for fresh elections and leave office (which has further escalated the humanitarian and security situation in the country), Botswana has become the first African government to blame the president for the worsening crisis.

A majority of the African leaders and governments have taken a softer stance calling for dialogue in planning for the delayed elections while avoiding direct attack on President Kabila. “We continue to witness a worsening humanitarian situation in DR Congo mainly because its leader has persistently delayed the holding of elections, and has lost control over the security of his country. Botswana therefore, urges the international community to put more pressure on the leadership in the Democratic Republic of Congo to relinquish power and pave way for the ushering-in of a new political dispensation,” the statement from Botswana said.

So what gives a small but resource-rich Botswana the moral pedestal to openly criticise and castigate other nations and powerful leaders? To a great extent, it stems from the country’s clean corruption and governance record. It has been christened Africa’s most stable economy and has over the years been ranked Africa’s least corrupt country in the Transparency International’s annual corruption Index. In fact in the latest ranking, it appeared at position 34 out of the 180 ranked countries worldwide with a score of 61 out of 100, 28 points shy of the world’s least corrupt country, New Zealand. In Africa Cape Verde and Rwanda emerged second tying at position 48, with only 14 African countries making it to the top 100 in the list.

The country has invested heavily in tackling corruption and crime, even as its neighbours like South Africa battle mega scandals that have even seen the ouster of its president. Analysts say Botswana realizes that tackling corruption is the major step in addressing any problem in the country. “What Botswana has done is institutionalise corruption offices and bodies, then proceeded in ensuring that people understand corruption and its impact so well that the thought of taking bribe cannot be fathomed,” Dr. Alfred Mukasa a policy and research analyst in Africa based in Uganda said.

The country runs a robust Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime that has existed since 1994. It handles all corruption cases, runs sensitisation and training seminars especially in government ministries and departments that are possible conduits of corruption. The directorate has close to 300 permanent staff and a nine million US dollar annual budget. There is also a toll-free corruption and whistleblower hotline that allows citizens to report corruption cases anonymously.

The country also has specialist and dedicated judges that hear corruption related cases. Corruption cases are never mixed with criminal and civil ones. The idea is to expedite these cases ensuring that justice is delivered promptly. This, a departure from the African tradition where corruption cases drag for years due to backlogs. There is also extensive training in lower levels of primary schools to cultivate in young ones the culture of shunning corruption.

“The greatest win for Botswana in the corruption dragon that almost all African countries have been unable to slay, is its all-inclusive approach that doesn’t leave the fight against corruption to the government only. Everyone is made part of the anti-corruption campaign and there are no sacred cows. Not even the president is immune to prosecution. Again the life time imprisonment and hefty fines which have actually been tested have been a major boost in this war,” said Francis Koome of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Nairobi.

As Botswana’s president Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama prepares to step down after ten years as limited by the constitution, and having successfully championed an anti-corruption campaign, the country is looking to cement the gains he has achieved in fostering stability and fighting corruption even as they look for his heir.

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Current Map: Our coverage
Embed from Getty Images
But while it took time for majority of African countries to respond, Botswana swiftly fired back at Trump.
Embed from Getty Images
“The government of Botswana is wondering why President Trump must use this descriptor and derogatory word when talking about countries with whom the US has had cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations for so many years.”
Embed from Getty Images
Yet this is not the first time the Southern African country with a population of two million people has stood up to the ‘big boys’ when it felt its sovereignty was being insulted.

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