A local political analyst Anthony Morima has rubbished Botswana’s recent statement blasting Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir for evading arrest in South Africa as just baseless and reckless talk which could expose the country to international tensions and threats.
In an interview with this publication following a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on the matter and the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi affirming the stance, Morima said such talks were usually empty talks which are resultant of back door politics and were not good for future diplomatic relations of the country.” Given the same situation as South Africa, I doubt if Botswana would have dared arrested Al Bashir, let alone any other head of state,” he said.
According to Morima it is open knowledge that most African states have lost faith in the intentions of international Criminal Court and had on several occasions accused it of targeting African leaders. A decision to arrest an African state leader by another African state he says could be viewed by many as defying the rest of the continent and was bound to attract dire repercussions. “Taking such a bold and unpopular decision is currently not the most smart thing to do, “ said Morima
It is open knowledge Botswana through its former Minister of foreign affairs Phandu Skelemani had publicly declared that they stand by their allegiance to the Rome statute and will defend it any given time. Skelemani was once quoted by a local publication saying that should Uhuru Kenyatta who was then facing war crime charges from the ICC like Al Bashir, refuse to heed the ICC call, he would ‘not set foot in Botswana, that Botswana will exercise powers bestowed upon it by the ICC to arrest Kenyatta and hand him over to the international criminal court.
While he would later retract his statement, the statement had already spread and it would appear did not sit well with other African leadership.
Morima points out that Botswana could have perhaps learnt its lesson during that particular period as it would turn out, other African leaders lost faith in the country’s diplomatic policy and no longer took Skelemani serious.
Botswana it must be noted have from the word not kept at bay its disgust about Al-Bashir’s refusal to appear before the ICC for face war crimes and crimes against humanity charges a. Being the ever vocal one among its peers Botswana made it public that given a chance they will arrest Al-Bashir and hand him over to ICC should he set foot in the country, in fact President Ian Khama is on record calling Bashir a 'cancer'.
In the recent statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Botswana expressed disappointment to the South African government for failing to support the ICC in arresting Al Bashir and pledging its utmost will to arrest him should he set foot in Botswana. “We have consistently indicated that should President Al-Bashir come to Botswana, we will pursue the spirit of the law as outlined in the Rome Statute,” read part of the statement.
In the press statement the government called on all countries that are signatory and had ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC to cooperate with the international court in ensuring that Bashir is brought to book for the crimes against humanity he committed in Darfur and to support the international community’s efforts to provide justice for the victims.
The government blasted Bashir for evading arrest by cutting his visit short. The ministry however commended the North Gauteng High Court for ruling that President Al Bashir be arrested in South Africa owing to an outstanding warrant of arrest against him by the ICC, saying it was a positive development that will send a clear message to others. “Botswana as a State Party to the Rome Statute, which sets out the crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, strongly supports international efforts to hold those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes accountable,” read the statement.
This outburst by Botswana however comes when other African countries are still mum about the issue. There are even reports that South Africa might ditch the ICC following the fracas.
Morima however still insist that for the sake of peace and the country’s own good Botswana should have kept silent about the issue. “ Though Iam not for silent diplomacy, I do not understand why a head of state would create a hypothetical situation and advance a position that they know even we could not afford to do,” said Morima adding that he was of the view that Botswana was not ready to defend itself. “ We cannot risk to rattle feathers with people like Bashir who possibly have links with extremists group like Al Qaeda and ISIS,” he said.
The ICC was created in 2002 with the intention to go after the biggest perpetrators of crimes against humanity and those who commit genocide. Although the court can indict even sitting heads of state, as it did with Bashir, it has no power to handcuff them and put them in the dock. Instead, the court relies on other heads of state and governments to act as its sheriffs around the world.