Contrary to popular opinion, Botswana did not lose out in the contest for the African Union Commission’s top seat, but in fact, won big on principle, the country’s Ambassadors who ran the campaign, say All Botswana Ambassadors based around the world were part of Foreign Affairs Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s campaign team by virtue of their stations. Speaking to BG News about the lessons from the defeat. Ambassadors maintained that Botswana’s candidate lost because she fought on the principles of transparency and openness.
Botswana’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Charles Ntwaagae said there are always lessons to learn from all candidatures. He preferred to discuss the issue broadly by combining the AU Commission candidature that we lost and the Commonwealth Secretary General post through Mmasekgowa Mwamba-Masire as well as the candidature of Dr Gloria Somolekae at UNESCO.
“We need to be a little more aggressive in our marketing of candidates; we need to come up with more robust candidate structures and provide resources. We need to cultivate more effort into our candidate and our relations with the rest of the world because when it comes to candidates, they are quite complex in terms of how you mobilise support for them. There are many factors that influence support or non-support to the candidature at any one point in time.
“But in general, the lessons we get is we need to expend more resources, come up with a much more rational and robust candidature strategy. Make resources available to finance our strategies and ensure that our strategy can be sold across the world not just in Africa. We should not just pin our hopes on SADC, but work beyond SADC and build up support beyond SADC. You remember Minister Venson-Moitoi had been endorsed as a sole SADC candidate and SADC has about 15 members,” he said.
However at the January summit where the election took place, she did not even get 10 votes. “You can see from the votes she got that not all SADC countries voted for her, even from the first round she got 10 votes, but there are 15 member countries. It is just that it is a secret ballot; we will never get to know what happened. But, I have a strong feeling that the 10 votes Moitoi got some of them came from non-SADC members, you may find that SADC votes may have been six, with four coming from somewhere,” argued Ntwaagae.
According to him that goes to show that our unity at SADC when it comes to candidates’ issues is very fragile. “The lesson we learn from here is that we should not basically put our eggs in one basket in future. When we run for candidatures we should not put our eggs in one basket, we must put more effort in building cross-regional support. It is more important to work beyond our sub region. But rather use it as the base and do not pin too much hope into it because it never works out.”
Ntwaagae revealed that beyond SADC, there were other dynamics at work in the AUC candidature in which Minister Moitoi was involved. “First Africa is divided between Anglophone and Francophone Africa, besides these two main divisions, there are others as we have Luzophone (Portuguese speaking in Africa), and then there is Sub- Saharan Africa, there are so many dynamics now because of the different colonial influence that we had and the linguistic differences that exist,” he said.
This provides an opportunity for external influence, he said, adding that there is always an external influence in elections that take place at Africa-level bodies like the African Union. Said Ntwaagae, “I would not want to point a finger at any particular power, but there were many external forces which influenced the outcome of the elections there. It is just that the fundamental division of Francophone and Anglophone that in itself is a dynamic that we will have to contend with, which to some extent, also worked against our candidate.”
The ambassador said they are not bitter against the outcome that has come out of Addis Ababa, saying they offer full support to Chad because “for us what is important to us is the African continent and we continue to be a loyal member of the African continent and we have placed our full support to Chad even though they are a Francophone country, but we respect the fact that the country emerged out of a democratic process and that the president was democratically elected.”
Ntwaagae maintains that, unofficially there was an external influence in the outcome of that election. “So there were quite a number of dynamics which did not favour us, plus the fact that within that we could not count on the full support of SADC even though our candidate was officially a SADC candidate, there are indications that not all of the SADC countries were behind us. But remember also the Kenyan minister was on the race. The Kenyans had mounted a very strong campaign.”
The Kenyans had done a lot more than us in terms of putting the resources, he said. The Kenyan foreign minister’s campaign was led by both the president and his deputy who are the highest people in the land. “Aircraft were made available to fly her around. The level of resources availed to her was far more than what we had put in, but she lost. But at least the leadership of her country was much more visible, but in our case, I am not being critical of my own president because he made an attempt. He appointed former President Festus Mogae to be a special envoy and of course the vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi is the one who launched Moitoi at the AU.
“We also had a function in New York where VP launched Moitoi. But you know what, even if our president could have spearheaded this campaign, it is most unlikely that he could have changed the outcome of this election because of the other dynamics. Khama would not have managed to overcome the Francophone and Anglophone divisions and he could not have managed to undermine the external influence that I am talking about. There are some interests within Africa, I can tell you the Western Sahara issue had an influence in the kind of outcome we had in our own candidature, because countries mobilised around that particular issue, not that Botswana had any position against the Western Sahara independence. But once you mention Western Sahara, it means France and Morocco are involved and mind you, this was also pending and one of the decisions that had to be taken in Addis Ababa during the election of the chair was Morocco’s re-admission into the AU. That issue also had a bearing”.
For the Geneva-based Ambassador, Mothusi Palai this was an open competition for the entire continent, and since by competition it is just that – competition, there are no guarantees about success. Every region was putting forward its own candidate, “so I say that the lesson, in fact it was the first time that we competed at that level in the African continent and we did it for two rounds, the first round we looked fantastic and went for he second round, it shows that we do have support, it may just mean that we need to invest more in the future in getting more and more of others in the African continent to support us.
Otherwise, we regard it overall as a success in the sense that it was the first time we had a go at it and we made a good show of it. We did not win, but at the end we should be content with where we are.”
Brussels-based Ambassador Samuel Outlule said “the main thing really is first and foremost when you are contesting you can expect that you can either win or lose.”
For his part, John Moreti who is based in Kenya noted that SADC fought a gallant campaign. “We fought with her, Botswana fought on principle, I think that is key. If Africa could not embrace a candidate from Botswana, perhaps the success story that Botswana is in terms of achieving good success in areas of management, particularly management of resources, economy, the checks and balances we have in our system.”
Moreti said Botswana fought with honesty and brought a candidate who has experience and served with the best. “So we fought on principle being transparent and open even to those we were competing with. Honestly, Africa lost the opportunity to get value from being served by somebody from a highly successful country in terms of all the elements of good governance. Maybe we could have brought something to the AU institutions,” he said.
“We lost the opportunity. I do not think we lost because our voice has been heard; the platform that Moitoi fought on or at least articulated to us has been good enough to tell Africa that Botswana has something very serious to offer. We would say Africa will never accept us, they have heard us, but we have drawn some very good lessons that should inform the next campaign strategy when we mount campaigns for similar positions whether it is in the AU or elsewhere,” he argued.
He added, “But, the critical thing is, we fought on principle, we were not going to compromise our principles simply to satisfy people who can flush a cheque book. Africa has to be transformed into a continent where systems are in place. As you know, Minister Moitoi fought on those principles that we are coming to assist a very functional administration and introduce some reforms that would really make the AU Commission fit for purpose to deliver on Agenda 2063”.
Sweden based Ambassador Lameck Nthekela told this publication that he takes it as not a defeat. “Actually, for us it is a win in that we have shown the world that we do not compromise on our principles, that we uphold our principles in a very positive light, transparently and we hold our heads very high. It is just because sometimes you find some of our colleagues probably because they feared that once Botswana get the reigns then issues with regard to ICC, peer review mechanism at the AU will probably come to the fore and then we will not be the darlings of this Africa, In any case we are not the darlings because of the principles that we believe in.”