The Emperor’s New Clothes

08th August 2017


By Ernest Moloi -

A few years ago (2015) Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir turned into something of a celebrity when he evaded arrest whilst attending an African Union Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is common course that al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and war crimes against his people in Darfur. South Africa was roundly condemned by the International Community for providing al-Bashir safe passage out of its borders. At the height of the standoff, South Africa even threatened to quit the ICC accusing the Hague-based court of selective justice since it only goes after African leaders. South Africa insisted it was duty-bound by international law to accord al-Bashir the diplomatic immunity that he enjoys as a head of state. Consequently, they could not and would not arrest al-Bashir! Somehow, little Botswana has ever since the ascendancy of President Ian Khama found her sting voice. We make so much noise even where wise counsel admonishes us that, ‘silence is golden.’ And for this conduct and attitude we have isolated ourselves. In fact some have in jest described our foreign policy posturing as ‘rooftop diplomacy’! We were quick to announce to the whole world that we’d be ready, as bona fide signatories to the Rome Statute – to arrest al-Bashir if he ever dared to set foot on our soil. And indeed our administration is not bluffing, make no mistake about it, it would arrest him! Al-Bashir has stayed away from this part of Africa, no doubt trembling at the thought that little Botswana has made her intentions loud and clear! It is no wonder that when SADC presented Pelonomi Venson Moitoi as a candidate for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission, she was rejected! We have alienated our former friends. Our President does not interact at the level of Head of State and Government with his peers. Instead, he prefers to delegate his vice, the Foreign Minister or the Ambassador Plenipotentiary. These will not do. They don’t fit the grade. Presidents and Heads of State and Government want to talk to their colleagues, not proxies! We have cut ourselves from multilateral organisations. We hardly ever sell our point at the UN through the African Group because we have grown too big for our boots. We reckon we can take on the world on our own. We hardly ever lobby regional economic groupings when we have a position to advance. We have become an island, and gradually we are headed for a big crash whose repercussions will be far-reaching. The African Miracle – a project of intense labour of love by passionate Democrats- is fading into the horizon. It seems there’s no one brave enough to salvage it from the imminent self-destruction it faces. We have poked our noses and stuck our fingers where we’d have been better off silent. These days, we are able to muster the courage to pick a fight with China over the disputed islands of the South China Sea, or over Tibet and the Dalai Lama in respect of our understanding of the ‘One China Policy’ that we acceded to when we established diplomatic relations with China in 1975. We have the temerity to poke our noses in the affairs of North Korea and even threaten to cut off diplomatic relations with them because of their nuclear test programme! We have become something of a busybody, trying at every turn to assert our democratic credentials for all and sundry to behold even if it means stepping on Syria’s or Venezuela’s toes! Yet we keep mum when America and United Kingdom commit atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan or in Libya! The question to ask is, are we ready for the rebuff next time - Reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen’s seminal literary work, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’!

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