Mmegi Online :: Confusion clouds Dalai Lama’s maiden visit to Africa
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Thursday 19 October 2017, 16:39 pm.
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Confusion clouds Dalai Lama’s maiden visit to Africa

Confusion continues to reign over the Dalai Lama’s August billed visit to Botswana where he is expected to speak on the concept of Ubuntu.
By Baboki Kayawe Goitsemodimo Kaelo Fri 16 Jun 2017, 17:54 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Confusion clouds Dalai Lama’s maiden visit to Africa








The event organisers maintain he has been issued a visa while government says the contrary.

Subsequent to the Foreign Affairs and International Relations ministry divorcing itself from what could be the Tibetan leader’s inaugural visit to Africa, event coordinator representing Mind & Life Institute, also one of the speakers at the upcoming conference, Donald Molosi said government has long issued the Dalai Lama with a visa. 

Infact, the reason the country was chosen to host the Buddhist spiritual leader was that “the government of Botswana opened its doors to the Dalai Lama, which is historic as he has never been allowed in any African country before”.

However, they did not state the date of visa issuance.  Molosi added that when looking for a place to host the conference, they looked at countries’ willingness to welcome the Dalai Lama. Moreover, Botswana’s virtues of botho, democracy and respect for the rule of law also came into play.

In his knowledge, government has opened its borders to the leader and President Ian Khama will introduce the exiled Dalai Lama at the conference.  The Dalai Lama’s birth names are Lhamo Thondup, in other instances spelt ‘Dondrub’. He also goes by the names Tenzin Gyatso, shortened from Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso.

“The opening address will be delivered by His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama,” Molosi said. A press release from the US Mind & Health Institute also corroborates that. Though aware of the political pressures within Botswana surrounding the visit, he does “not foresee the visa revoked”.

If it so happens, the conference would go on and participants, mostly the academia will benefit from the event as they explore the concept of botho from an individual, institutional and from an academic viewpoint. Former Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe alongside Graca Machel and seven others are also part of the dialogue, according to the organisers. When contacted Kedikilwe confirmed that he has been invited and will address the conference. 

However, the foreign ministry Wednesday said “it is not true that His Excellency the President will attend and give a keynote address at the event in question,” said spokeswoman Wame Dechambenoit. 

The ministry’s permanent secretary Gaeimelwe Goitsemang, this week also said government supports the long standing “One China” policy, and Botswana will not breach biletaral relations between the two by coordinating the Dalai Lama’s visit. Despite the

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organisers maintaining visa has long been issued, the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs says no application for his visa has come through.

The ministry’s chief public relations officer, Hannah Ramorogo, denied issuing visa under any of the spiritual leader’s names. The ministry promptly denied visa issuance upon searching his entry using the spiritual title, Dalai Lama. 

However, after a thorough search using his birth name and the other name he goes by, immigration officials still maintained no one under those particulars was visa approved or ever applied for one.  “We searched using all his known names in our visa system, but he has not applied nor issued visa, unless he has used some other name that we are not aware of,” said Ramorogo.  

The “One China” policy has been a hot potato whenever the spiritual leader had to visit any country with bilateral ties with China. Neighbouring South Africa, for instance, has denied him entry three times in the past five years.

According to the policy, Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China yet Tibet maintains its sovereignty. As things stand, it is not yet clear whether any African country has issued a transit visa to the India-based Dalai Lama.  “Given China’s geopolitical power in the region, I don’t foresee any African country allowing the Dalai Lama to cross its borders.

Sino-Africa relations have grown so much, and Africa has thus far benefited a lot from the cooperation at a time when Western aid is declining,” a diplomat who preferred not to be named said.  The conference, ‘Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue on Spirituality, Science and Humanity with the Dalai Lama’, to be held at the University of Botswana is expected to bring African humanitarian and spiritual leaders, scholars and healers into conversation with the Dalai Lama and international neuroscientists about the African world view of Botho/Ubuntu. 

In a statement, the Dalai Lama said, “My dear friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu has told me about the beautiful African notion of Botho/Ubuntu, which means, ‘I am because you are.’ This resonates powerfully with the ancient Indian idea of interdependence. In participating in the Mind & Life Dialogue, as well as meeting and talking with members of the public, I hope to gain a clearer understanding of this idea and explore ways in which it may help promote compassion and understanding in our world.”

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