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March 13, 2013

Botswana Denies Strained Relations With Kenya

by Peter Clottey

Botswana Information Minister Jeff Ramsay has denied reports that the election of Kenya’s president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, is straining relations between his government and Nairobi.

Ramsay says the government in Gaborone will continue to have strong diplomatic relations with Kenya.

 “We have excellent relations with Kenya and we look forward to working with the incoming administration,” said Ramsay.

“There’s been some of a misinterpretation of remarks by our foreign minister, which was made to a private local media journalist,” continued Ramsay. “Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta …is anyway cooperating with the ICC [International Criminal Court], and it is not for us to prejudge or judge anything as far as the case goes.”                                     

His comments came after Botswana’s foreign minister Phandu Skelemani said Mr. Kenyatta is not welcomed in the country because the newly elected Kenyan leader faces charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with violence in 2007-2008 following the last Kenyan elections.

But Skelemani later released a statement saying Kenyatta is welcome in Botswana because the president-elect is “innocent until proven guilty.”

“Botswana respects the rule of law and it’s cognizant of a section of the law that maintains “one is innocent until proven guilty… “I apologize to the Kenyan people for misunderstanding my earlier statement. I wish to maintain that Kenya and Botswana have always worked together and nothing will detract that,” read Skelemani’s statement.
 
Botswana has repeatedly urged African countries that recognize the ICC to cooperate with the Hague-based court.
 
Gaborone’s stance has often clashed with the African Union and some of its members, including Sudan, that accuse the ICC of targeting Africans.
 
Analysts say Botswana’s ICC stance could prove a diplomatic relations challenge with Kenya since, Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, both face charges at the ICC.
 
“There is no need for a thaw because we have excellent relations. We don’t foresee any problems with the incoming administration in Kenya, assuming that the inauguration does go forward,” said Ramsay.
Clottey interview with Dr. Jeff Ramsay, Botswana information minister