Wesbank

Rogue North Korea build Three Dikgosi statutes 

SHARE   |   Monday, 18 September 2017   |   By Phillimon Mmeso 
The Three Dikgosi Monument at CBD The Three Dikgosi Monument at CBD

Botswana is one of the African countries that are being probed by the United Nations for violating sanctions imposed on North Korea. A report on the investigations which was released early this year by UN panel of experts which recommends that a tough new round of sanctions aimed at coercing North Korea into negotiations on its nuclear arsenal has shown that some African countries have trade links with Pyongyang. Botswana severed its diplomatic and consular relations with North Korea in 2014 following a report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, making Botswana the first African country to recognise, de jure, the Republic of Korea as the sole legitimate government of Korea. In October 2015 while President Ian Khama was in Seoul, he informed the media that Botswana has no interest in diplomatic relations with North Korea any longer, referring to the violation of human rights and the menace to the peace of the Far East by the military dictatorship. On top of that, Khama denounced government officials of North Korea saying that “North Korean’s leaders look like living in the Stone Age." Botswana is being investigated for contracting North Korea’s Mansudae Project Group to build the statute of the three Dikgosi at Central Business District (CBD). The company, which is owned by the North Korean government, pocketed over P10 million from Botswana.  The project cost P10.5 million: P7.5 million for the design, moulding and casting of the bronze statues and P3 million for the civil works. At the time of the construction, Botswana only stated that the company was from Korea without stating which one. After the completion of the project, the Koreans organised a workshop for local artists where they imparted knowledge. The statue was inaugurated by former President Festus Mogae. During his tenure Mogae also tried to convince Pyongyang to send their medical professionals to Botswana as the country was faced with HIV/AIDS scourge.

Mansudae is the largest art production company in the world and is said to be employing more than 4000 Koreans handpicked from the best academies in the country. Recently US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned that the United States is considering restricting trade with countries that violate sanctions by doing business with North Korea. Government Chief Spokesperson Jeff Ramsay confirmed that he has seen the report but will investigate why Botswana has been included in the list of countries doing business with Pyongyang as they have long severed ties with it. He said that they will write to the UN to inform that Botswana is no longer with any North Korean company as their relationship with Mansudae ended after the completion of the three diKgosi’s statue. Gaborone and Pyongyang established diplomatic relations in 1974 during the cold war and in the early 1980s, several North Korean martial arts instructors were commissioned to train the Botswana Police Service in unarmed combat. The North Koreans are alleged to have left Botswana shortly after they arrived, apparently due to inciting the constables against their superiors and trying to convince them to seek a more democratic form of police work. According to the UN report, Tanzania has entered into military related contract with a North Korean corporation valued at about US$ 12.5million. 

The Haegeumgang Trading Corporation is said to be repairing and upgrading Tanzanian surface- to- air missile systems and air defence radar. Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Mozambique and Namibia are also named by the panel of experts as subjects of UN investigation regarding sanctions violations. Namibia’s government granted Mansudae a $60 million contract to build “Heroes’ Acre,” a roughly three-kilometre (roughly 2 mile) war memorial in the capital city of Windhoek. It features a statue of an unknown soldier, which is reportedly the spitting image of former president Sam Nujoma and was completed in 2002. Mansudae was also contracted to construct Namibia’s New State House completed in 2008. In Senegal, Mansudae built arguably its most famous overseas work –  the African Renaissance Monument; a colossal structure of bronze standing at a height of 49 meters (about 160 feet). Last week's UN panel report said "lax enforcement" of sanctions has allowed North Korea to earn $270 million in foreign transactions since February this year. In December last year UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to bar UN members from buying statuary from Mansudae. The clause was aimed at a niche but lucrative business — run from Mansudae — of exporting giant memorials, mainly to Africa.