Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Botswana Opposition Leader Demands Apology From Khama For Hosting Mutharika

"Statement by the Leader of Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane, to be delivered on
Tuesday 26 July 2011 in the National Assembly on developments in Malawi
and how the Botswana government should respond."

The Opposition Collective in the Parliament of Botswana joins the rest of the
democratic community in condemning the cold blooded massacre, on 20th and
21st July 2011 of 18 demonstrators by the government of President Bingu
wa Mutharika. This terrible act of violence against unarmed civilians,
protesting the escalating cost of living, fuel and foreign exchange shortages,
as well as repression and violation of human rights, is unprecedented in the
history of Malawi. We note that even during the one party dictatorship of
Hastings Kamuzu Banda, nothing on this scale was ever visited on the civilian
population by the government. The economic problems in Malawi which
precipitated the demonstrations have been authored by a stubborn President
Mutharika whose deteriorating human rights record has forced donors to cut
off much needed aid.

As the Opposition Collective, we can rightly proclaim we saw this coming.
The nation will recall that on 1 April 2011, the Chairman of the Botswana
Movement for Democracy(BMD) and also Member of Parliament for Lobatse
addressed a press conference in the precincts of Parliament announcing a
boycott of the official opening of the Lobatse Stadium facility by President
Mutharika. Hon Modubule’s stance which reflected the indignation of the
Opposition Collective was premised on well founded concerns at a disturbing
trend of developments in Malawi.

In a pattern of behaviour which suggested that state violence will soon be
perpetrated against the citizenry, President Mutharika has in the past incited the
youth cadres of his Democratic Progressive Party to assault opposition
supporters who dared criticize him. Another consideration which informed our
boycott of President Mutharika was his display of intolerance to critical views,
when he assented to Section 46 Penal Code Amendment Bill which grants the
Minister for Information the power to arbitrarily close down publications, outside
due process. To us this assault on the press, which we consider a critical
guardian of democracy and good governance was unacceptable.

The delinquent conduct of President Mutharika knows no bounds. We noted
with concern the sustained attacks on the Non Governmental Organisations,
leading to some activists fleeing into exile because they fear for their lives.
Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, immediately after his departure from
Botswana, President Mutharika expelled the ‘British High Commissioner for
describing him in a diplomatic cable as ‘autocratic and intolerant of criticism”

We contend that President Mutharika is being aided and abetted in his
campaign of repression by the government of Botswana which continues to
treat him like a distinguished statesman when many in the international
community are shunning him. It should be a source of shame that President
Khama, in a display of bad judgment, and against our counsel, invited this
dictator to our country. In its unbridled contempt for the Opposition, this
government disregards all our advice, the consequence of which is a
situation where our country is today associated with rogues like President
Mutharika. It is shocking to many that a government with a predilection for
playing to the international gallery on issues of democracy and human rights
has remained silent in the face of the unfolding tragedy in Malawi. To us this
silence means the government of Botswana condones the deplorable actions
of President Mutharika.

We pose this question, how different is President Mutharika from Muammar
Gadaffi in Libya, Bashar Al Assad in Syria, Omar Al Bashir in Sudan, and all the
other dictators that have attracted the sanctimonious wrath of the Botswana
government over rights violations and atrocities against their own citizens?
The deafening silence, which can only be ascribed to the embarrassment felt by
the Botswana government, amounts to a betrayal of the people of Malawi,
particularly victims of the state sponsored violence. Indeed contrary of the
grandstanding characterizing previous statements about how the Botswana
government sides with the people against repressive regimes, the simple truth
is that these expressions of support are mere lip service; and just like those it
condemns, the Botswana government practices double standards, and will side
with its friends in power, hence the tacit support given to President Mutharika on
account of the ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ posture.

To this end the Parliamentary Opposition Collective demands the
following from the Botswana government;

1. An unequivocal statement condemning the actions of the government of
President Mutharika.

2. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Phandu Skelemani to summon the
High Commissioner of Malawi to Botswana for a meeting at which he will
convey the statement of condemnation.

3. To demand an immediate end to the ongoing harassment , detention and
torture of opposition and civil society activists; many of whom are now
in hiding.

4. To support an investigation by the International Criminal Court on the
killings in Malawi, and for such support to be extended to prosecutions
that will follow.

5. To apologise to both the people of Botswana and Malawi for hosting
President Mutharika in April 2011.

6. To undertake to listen to the counsel of the Opposition Collective in
future and undertake not to invite any dictators to Botswana.

Failure to do any of the above will give true meaning to the idiom that we
judge you by the company you keep. Batswana and the international
community should henceforth judge this government by the friends it keeps
in the form of President Mutharika and his murderous regime.

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