In an interview with Botswana Guardian before going back home, United States ambassador to Botswana Michelle Gavin discusses her stay in Botswana, democracy, politics and gender-based violence.
BG: Your three year term in Botswana is coming to an end in two weeks’ time. Describe your stay here?
MG: It has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Even though I have not reached all her expectations here, I’m going back to the US a happy woman.
I have managed to reach out to young people through lifeskills training, volunteerism, mentoring and exchange programmes to the US. For that, I remain proud because young people are future leaders.
My other highlight has been continually ensuring that our government supports Botswana financially with fighting HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.
BG: You have also been actively involved against gender-based violence. Would you say you have made a change?
MG: Worldwide, an estimated one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
Here in Botswana, women and children have been victims of violence at alarming rates.
Two thirds of women are abused and none of us wish to live in a world where our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters face these brutal odds of being victimised.
Through my interventions, I have helped women who have been living in fear to speak out. Gender violence is disrespectful of Botswana laws and victims should be protected at all costs.
BG: What is your general take on democracy in Botswana?
MG: Despite having been intrigued by this country’s democracy in terms of robust debates in the media, I would say we are all an imperfect democracy.
Primary elections held, regardless of loopholes identified, showed that there is a real competition in politics here. Botswana is ready for general election.
However, Parliament strengthening has to be a worthy development. It has to be more self-sufficient and antagonism should be put aside.
BG: Our opposition is always seen to be immature. What is your view?
MG: The problem is them having squabbles among themselves. If they can unite, they will make progress in future.
BG: After Ian Khama’s comment that Zimbabwe’s elections were not free and fair, the relationship became openly sour. What is your general opinion on the matter?
MG: It is a complex relationship. The two countries need each other for business investments, which is obviously happening. There are a lot of issues that call for space for collaboration, not strife. What they offer each other is rather more important.
BG: Youth unemployment in Botswana is higher than national unemployment, which is 17 percent. What do you suggest should be done to curb the situation?
MG: It is a serious problem, which requires the imperativeness of job creation. Most importantly, it requires private sector growth.
BG: What do you think about the Public Health Bill?
MG: It has been an interesting debate and watching and listening to various stakeholders arguing over it has been quite fascinating. We saw non governmental organisations airing their views without any intimidation and government also openly putting the foot down. Even though I would feel different countries would address the matter differently, I was shocked at how sensitive the idea of discrimination is here. It is such a great deal.
BG: WikiLeaks reports describe local media as careless. What is your assessment of the industry?
MG: There is a promising potential that Botswana media will reach greater heights. However, it is equally important that they become more responsible to avoid at all costs, confusing members of the public.
Prior to her confirmation by the Senate in 2011, Gavin served as special assistant to president Barack Obama and senior director for Africa on the National Security Staff. Before joining the Obama administration, she was an Adjunct Fellow for Africa, and an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.