NEW YORK – The Vice President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi has in what was interpreted by political experts as a defiant statement against the 2014 position of the African Union (AU) on the International Criminal Court (ICC), reaffirmed Botswana’s unwavering support and commitment to the ICC and what it stands for.
The 54 nation AU has urged its members to "speak with one voice" against criminal proceedings at the ICC instituted on sitting presidents. The organization expressed disappointed that a request to the United Nations Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya's leaders had not yielded the "positive result expected".
In the SADC region, only Botswana is opposed to the AU position, which was made in a statement last year February following an Ethiopian summit attended by 34 leaders. Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto, who both deny the charges, face charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC in the Hague for allegedly orchestrating post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people died.
Sometimes back in November, the Security Council rejected an AU demand to suspend the ICC trial of the two leaders. Guatemala's UN ambassador, Gert Rosenthal said the attempt to suspend the trial was an act of "contempt" against countries that had sought to help Africa with peacekeeping troops and efforts to boost justice in the continent.
Eight Security Council nations, all ICC members or supporters, including Britain, France and the United States, abstained to ensure the failure of the resolution. The resolution got seven votes, two below the number needed to pass in the 15-member body. It was the first time in decades that a Security Council resolution failed in such a way without a veto by one of the permanent members.
However, this week at the United Nations assembly debate Botswana spoke hard against the controversial Security Council’s permanent seats and the veto.
“Botswana continues to firmly support the initiative by France calling for the permanent members of the Security Council to refrain from using their veto powers in situations involving mass atrocities,” said Masisi.
Masisi said the UN, which promotes democracy around the globe, should itself lead by example. “The UN Security Council is not an example of a democracy where permanent membership is limited to five countries which further have a veto.
There should be no permanent members and no veto at all. The practice of might is right, is actually wrong. Whilst in the main, it is indeed the primary responsibility of states to ensure the protection of their people, the reality is that some, like Syria, are manifestly failing to do so,” he said.
Masisi further observed that Vetoes violate international humanitarian law with shameful impunity. He added that this should clearly necessitate the application of Pillars II and III of the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P): yet, nothing is happening.
“Is it perhaps time that R2P is made a formal agenda item for debate by the General Assembly? Perhaps such a debate could provide sufficient impetus for the Security Council to carry the full mantle of its mandate, including improving its relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to facilitate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against humanity,” he said in his debate which was read to an almost half-empty GA hall.
International Criminal Court
Defying the AU, Masisi said Botswana's commitment to a strong and effective international justice system remains resolute. “Our belief in the ICC, as the only standing international criminal tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, is unwavering,” he told member states.
The Botswana Government, Masisi, in what many suspected was referring to South African president, Jacob Zuma said regrets that non-cooperation by some State Parties still plagues the Court, making allowance for continued impunity and escape from accountability for crimes committed against humanity.
The South African government recently made news world headlines when they helped the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to escape from arrest during a visit. The court ruled that SA government had a legal duty to arrest Bashir.
Zuma’s government allowed Bashir to leave the country on June 15 despite a court order blocking his departure, arguing that he had immunity from arrest during his visit to the country for an African Union summit.
Masisi said his government urges all Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC to stand fully behind the Court. Cooperation is vital for the assurance of the Court's integrity and effective functioning.
“My delegation and I are hopeful that as we commemorate 70 years of the United Nations, we can have unanimous agreement that judicial accountability, inclusive governance and the protection and promotion of human rights are essential elements for peaceful societies.
This, he said, should not be seen as the preserve of the ICC or Security Council alone, but rather as a shared responsibility of the member states.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.