Host President Lt. Gen. Dr Ian Khama has one thing in common with his guest, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is on a three-day state visit beginning this week Monday until Wednesday.
Both men are sons of founding presidents of their respective countries! Sir Seretse Khama led Botswana to a relatively quiet and peaceful independence transition in September 30, 1966 whilst Jomo Kenyatta (Burning Spear) sauntered from gaol, in 1961 to ascend the country’s exalted position as Prime Minister on Independence Day December 12, 1963 in the wake of the Kikuyu-led Mau Mau rebellions that forced the British into submission.
President Uhuru jetted into Gaborone this morning landing at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport just after 11 AM where he was met by his host, Ian Khama. Like Botswana, Kenya’s international airport is named after its founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru’s father. Both Ian and Uhuru spent some considerable time during their youthful days in Europe either studying or living with parents.
Uhuru joined President Khama for a state luncheon at GICC Monday afternoon after which both men were locked in official talks at the Office of the President, which most certainly revolved around improving trade and commercial relations between the two countries as well as the contentious political issue of International Criminal Court (ICC) in which they are diametrically opposed. The occasion also gave Khama an opportunity to lobby Kenyatta to rally behind Southern Africa’s candidate for Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who is Botswana’s foreign minister at next month’s election during the AU Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kigali, Rwanda.
Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open Botswana-Kenya Business Seminar at Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) in the morning in a speech that will urge and call for stronger private sector investments between the two nations. Kenya is the seat of the East African Community whilst Botswana hosts the Southern African Development Community’s headquarters and both regional economic communities have together with the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) initiated a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) whose talks are scheduled to start in earnest next year.
Sadly, trade between Botswana and Kenya or between east Africa and southern Africa is low. Kenya ‘s exports to Europe and the rest of the world include cut flowers, fresh produce such as mangoes, pineapples and avocados and it also exports black tea and coffee among others, while Botswana is renowned for her diamond and beef exports. Kenyatta is expected to seek support from Botswana, which is the current Chairperson of SADC as it prepares to host the 6th and first-ever Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi from August 27-28th. TICAD is Japan’s multilateral framework for the advancement of Africa, crafted during the height of donor fatigue at the dawn of the 21st Century.
Kenyatta, who is accompanied by his wife, Margaret and senior state officials will wrap his Tuesday programme with a tour of the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) in Gaborone and finish off with a tour of Orapa Mine. He will return home Wednesday at 10 AM according to an official schedule circulated by the foreign affairs ministry. Late May this year, Kenyatta played host to South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, who is also the daughter of South Korea’s former president, Park Chung-Hee, who ascended to power via a military coup in 1961. International media reports say she served as her father's first lady during the 1970s after her mother's assassination in 1974.
Ian Khama served as the youngest Brigadier (24 years) in the military service under his father and later ascended to Commander of the Botswana Defence Force under President Sir Ktumile Masire and is now Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces.