Please allow me space to air my two-penny thought on the matter of Eritrea national football team members who have become the centre of discussion in Botswana. These football players who have refused to go back to their country after playing to a loss have cited amongst other things being forcibly made to serve in their country’s army.
They have opted that they will rather apply for asylum in Botswana. I will do my best to detach this matter from politics. I will avoid the norm attached to every matter that takes the national centre stage to be used as a political gimmick.
Rre Dick Bayford, congratulations on your recent case where you represented the Eritreans from being sent home as yet, while seeking asylum. I find myself having to contemplate what you are going through trying your best to do your job as a human rights and criminal lawyer.
But I am also always interested whenever you take over any case, not only because you are a seasoned lawyer, but also because you are amongst the very few people I have seen giving up their lives to service those whom they view as vulnerable. Though your political stand, as president of the New Democratic Front (NDF) has not clouded your line of work, it cannot also be outrightly ignored that you are an opposition party activist. I am however as I mentioned above not here to discuss politics or to insinuate that you took this case to glow in the public light. I hope I will not be seen to be labelling you opportunistic.
I will first present that every country has its own sovereign procedures and laid down law including Botswana. There are several other countries where serving in the military is more like our own Tirelo Sechaba of then. Yes, such a case becomes optional and we learn in countries such as the United States of America where such service is done with great honour, admiration and patriotism. The world also learns that in other countries exists some form of cohesion and or being forced to serve in such armies as in the case of Eritrea.
Unfortunately from where I am standing, accepting application for asylum based solely on the notion that people have to constitutionally serve in their military and are refusing will be by Botswana, inflicting of pain on a sovereign state.
Whether their constitution is correct or not is not the matter, the matter is that we ought not to want to find ourselves engaged in washing other nations’ linens. My point, the football players must go back to Eritrea to serve in their army as it is their constitutional requirement.
I will secondly pursue another simple school of thought that if we are as a country going to spend thousands and thousands of pulas everyday deporting Zimbabweans everyday who are seeking asylum in Botswana, then we ought to extend the same treatment to all other foreign nationals. The argument that foreign nationals seeking asylum should be treated fairly and equally holds all the water. This country continues to give many other foreign nationals asylum but such people have been using proper process to apply for such asylum and those who have not used proper laid procedures have been denied such asylum. My, point is this that the football players must use laid down procedures of applying for asylum and if they are unable to then such asylum should not be availed. Allowing such asylum in the instance of it having been obtained un-procedurally will then set precedence and we will as a country then have to treat everyone the same way.
Thirdly, there seems to be a school of thought that we should as country show compassion and allow the 10 asylums. This is very interesting; it is not about the number of applicants. It is about procedure that you don’t just land in a country through a visiting visa or a tourist visa then after tasting peace and inner joy you then decide that “yes, this is it, I am applying for asylum”.
There should be reasons that you deserve asylum as well as following a set of laid procedures.
Can we be sure that such people may not be running away from crimes they have committed in their country? Can we be sure that by granting them their wish we are not harbouring terrorists? I will not want to live in a country that will be taken down by terrorists awarded asylum status because certain quarters of the society were shouting compassion. We should not create precedence where we will find ourselves unwillingly inviting terrorists, criminals and world’s most wanted criminals to Botswana.
I wish to point out that this associating every single thing that happens in this country with politics has indeed degraded this nation. I am praying in my mind that Dick Bayford took this matter out of sheer necessity to serve his role as a lawyer and not to play politics.