According to a report published by the Southern Times newspaper in South Africa, Botswana’s President Seretse Ian Khama, has invited Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara to pay a state visit to Botswana, in what is seen as Gaborone’s tacit endorsement of the former rebel leader as the new president of the beleaguared country. The newspaper reported that a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said this was in recognition of Ouattara’s ‘victory’ in the November 28 presidential elections in Ivory Coast. The report went on to say, ‘The two leaders discussed the matter and agreed that the visit would take place at a mutually convenient time,’ said the statement which also said the two leaders agreed to strengthen and deepen co-operation between the two countries in future. ‘Botswana will continue to support all efforts aimed at ensuring that Mr Ouattara assumes the presidency in Ivory Coast ,’ the statement said.
Ouattara is recognised as winner of the November 28 presidential election by the Ivory Coast’s voting authority and the international community. His rival Laurent Gbagbo, who insists he won the oll and has refused to vacate office, has said before that he is willing to talk with Ouattara but he has refused all offers to give up the presidency, including exile and immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, Botswana, through another statement from the foreign affairs ministry states that it welcomes the relinguishing of power by the former president of Tunisia, Mr Ben Ali after 23 years in office. ‘ The Southern African country expressed hope that the people of Tunisia will now usher in a period of peaceful transition leading to a free and fair election that will culminate in a political leadership that will genuinely run the affairs of that country in the best interest of its people. Foreign affairs minister, Mr Phandu Skelemani told Botswana Press Agency (BOPA) that Botswana is rallying behind calls for democratic elections in Tunisia.
Botswana voiced its position in the wake of recent violent repressions of protests over unemployment and lack of political freedom in Tunisia, which left dozens of people dead. Street protests intensified last week forcing President Ali to flee into exile while his prime minister took charge of government and pledged to form a regime of national unity. According to media reports Skelemani said Botswana’s diplomatic mission in Nigeria was closely monitoring the situation and would continuously update government so that if need be, Batswana in Tunisia could be evacuated for safety reasons. Botswana opposition parties on Thursday in Gabarone reacted strongly to reports that President Khama has invited Ivorian president-elect Alassane Ouattara to pay a state visit to the southern African country in recognition of his (Ouattara) victory of the 28 November presidential elections in Code d’Ivoire, APA learns here.
The publicity secretary of the Botswana Congress Party, Taolo Lucas, said the approach was very careless. ‘This is a very reckless foreign policy that President Ian Khama adopted,’ he said. Lucas added that for the Botswana government to have invited Ouattara before he is declared the official President of Cote d’Ivoire is ridiculous. ‘What the Khama Government should have done instead is to endorse Ouattara not invite him here,’ said Lucas. The Botswana Movement for Democracy spokesperson Sidney Pilane also criticized the invitation of the internationally widely recognised president-elect Ouattara accusing Khama of jumping the gun. ‘Instead of Botswana inviting Ouattara, he should have sent a message of support,’ said Pilane. He added that there are players, internal and external who have lent their offices to resolve the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire and Botswana should wait and see what the outcome could be. Cote d’Ivoire has been plunged in a crisis since outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara.
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