Africa will not achieve MDGs - Skelemani

Staff Writer
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phandu Skelemani has cast doubt on whether Africa will achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015.

The minister was addressing the press yesterday, after returning from the 17th Session of the Executive Council of Ministers and 15th Ordinary Session of the African Union held in Kampala, Uganda last month. The theme of the gathering was 'Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa'.

Skelemani said that his findings are that African countries are still lagging far behind and with very little progress to show regarding MDGs especially on health. However, he said that Botswana is not doing bad as it has been given 99 percent rating on children's health though there may be challenges that need to be dealt with such as seasonal outbreaks of cholera.

Unlike his boss, Vice-President, Mompati Merafhe who once told a press conference that one or two killings by state security agents is not something to cry about, Skelemani said that government takes seriously the death of even one citizen. "One lost Motswana is one loss too many," he said.

He stated that Botswana's annual contribution to the African Union (AU) would go up by one percent. In 2010, Botswana contributed approximately P7 million.

Skelemani reiterated Botswana's position that the creation of the United States of Africa should be done gradually as opposed to Libya's stance that it should be overnight. He said that the main challenges that face the project are different religions and political systems in African countries.

He said the stance of the AU on the arrest of Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir has divided the continent because there are those who feel it is not necessary.

He explained that the communication breakdown between the AU Commission and the United Nations Security Council should not be used as a scapegoat to sabotage the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Bashir. At the moment, he said,

the AU wants Bashir's arrest and trial set aside indefinitely on grounds of the communication breakdown. The AU had requested the UN Security Council to set aside/suspend the Bashir trial for 12 months pending its attempts to bring about stability in Sudan. The Security Council never responded.

He said that the 12 months has elapsed and the AU has not achieved much in bringing peace to Sudan, except for an anticipated referendum on whether the southern part of the country should get autonomy. He re-stated that Botswana would arrest Bashir if he dares set foot in the country. He said that there is no conflict between the AU statutes and the Rome Statute that set-up the ICC.

He added that it was not fair for the AU to bring laws that countries have not signed for. He stated that Botswana has not surrendered its sovereignty to the AU and would not be pushed around unnecessarily.

He asserted that the AU Human Rights Commission ambushed the Botswana government on the issue of former University of Botswana lecturer, Professor Kenneth Good, who was deported in 2005. He said that the government was still responding to Good's complaints when the commission advised the lecturer to make additional complaints contrary to the written rules.

This, he said put Botswana at a disadvantage, hence it was not possible for the government to respond.

"Botswana, supported by other states, strongly objected to some procedural irregularities by the commission in handling the cases brought before it. And since the decisions of the commission were not legally binding, Botswana made it clear that she will not abide by the court's ruling," he said. Skelemani said that though there are pockets of political instability on the continent, there are signs of improvement.



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