Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Opening Remarks by H.E.Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama at the Parliamentary Conference on Democracy in Africa in Gaborone

source: Republic of Botswana (21/9/09) TAUTONA TIMES no 24 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


President of the Inter Parliamentary Union and Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia, Honourable Dr Theo Ben Gurirab
Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Patrick K.Balopi.
Former Prime Minister of Togo, Mr Yawovi Agboyibo
Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Ms Thokozani Khupe
Distinguished Speakers and Presiding Officers from African Parliaments, Honourable Ministers Honourable Members of Parliament Excellencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions and International Organisations Honourable Leaders of Political Parties Permanent Secretary to the President Honourable Attorney General His Worship the Mayor of Gaborone Senior Government Officials Distinguished delegates Ladies and gentlemen

1. It is my pleasure to extend to you on behalf of the people of Botswana a warm welcome to our country.

2. The choice of the theme for the conference could not have been more appropriate. We are also delighted that Botswana was chosen for the venue because as a country Botswana has been practicing democracy long before it got independence and as such we can claim a modest and humble contribution to the development of democracy on the continent. In the post independence period we have had a succession of free and fair elections for representatives. Our last general elections were in 2004 and in just five weeks Batswana will once again go through the democratic process of elections to choose new representatives. The theme for the commemoration of the

3. International Day of Democracy is for us in Botswana as inspired a choice as the selection of our country to host this assembly. We hope our record of equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, mutual tolerance and respecting diversity amongst the various cultures of Batswana in general can also serve to inspire others.

4. Botswana has managed to uphold a broadly liberal democratic tradition since 1966, while incorporating aspects of its pre-colonial governance. Ever since independence, the government has acknowledged the crucial part that traditional structures such as the chiefs and the kgotla (local traditional assembly) could play in modern Botswana politics. The kgotla has been deployed by the state as a forum where government policies are consulted on and explained to the people, and also where the people can voice their problems and concerns. This, combined with the more "modern" aspects of an electoral representative democracy, has crafted a sustainable democratic culture in our country.

5. I have been reliably briefed that Parliament has arranged for delegates to visit and appreciate the Kgotla system. It is my hope that your visit to a Kgotla will further add impetus to the deliberation on one of Botswana's pillars of democracy.

5. When I took the oath of office in April last year, I shared my roadmap for the nation, known as the 4Ds; Democracy, Development, Dignity, and Discipline. Democracy has served our country and its people well. It is an important cornerstone of good governance and prudent economic management. Only democracy guarantees human rights, the rule of law, accountability and basic freedoms that we have enjoyed over the years. The success we have registered is on account of our adherence to democratic ideals. Nothing will be allowed to detract us from this path.

6. I am aware that the conference will discuss a topic on Botswana's experience in inclusiveness in the context of democracy. This will give you an opportunity to exchange views on Botswana's democratic system. I would therefore urge you to interrogate our system so as to assist us to strengthen and consolidate our democratic processes.

7. I am also informed that the conference is the first of its kind to be held in Africa by the Inter - Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the meeting could serve as the driving force that would enhance cooperation between African Parliaments.

8. As I have already indicated, your choice of theme for this conference is profound and inspiring. "Democracy and Political Tolerance" is the microscope through which we shall examine the aims and objectives of this conference. You will agree with me that Political tolerance entails the willingness to extend basic rights and civil liberties to persons and groups whose viewpoints differ from one's own, this is an important tenet of democracy.

9. This theme could not have come at a more opportune time, particularly when the continent continues to grapple with challenges of political intolerance. It is therefore essential for us as African Leaders and institutions of legislation to roll up our sleeves and address ourselves to the consequences brought about by this phenomena. The consequences of political intolerance are real and have potential to undermine capacity of governments to govern, parliaments to legislate and the Judiciary to adjudicate.

10. Therefore, continuous dialogue on issues of democracy and political tolerance can help us stop feelings of disadvantage, grievance, fear, despair, and anger leading to division, violence and instability. We need determination to tackle the roots and the causes and not just symptoms and conflicts. More important still, we need to emphasize preventive diplomacy in tackling politically induced conflicts.

11. I am confident that the conference will encourage Parliaments to work towards the entrenchment of democracy through more
active engagement with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. I am also hopeful that the conference will review progress in the field of democracy and as well deliberate on challenges posed to democracy in Africa, and how Parliaments can respond effectively to those challenges.

12. One thing which I fear may become a trend in Africa if not stopped, is where an individual and/or a political party in order to come into power or to stay in power engage in unconstitutional and undemocratic actions to achieve this, which as we have already witnessed result in power sharing arrangements and one man rule. We reluctantly accepted the Kenyan power sharing agreement and very reluctantly the Zimbabwean all inclusive arrangement, where there are still problems today. We shall neither recognize any of those behind the coup in Madagascar leading any transitional arrangement.

13. There can be no substitution for free, fair and credible elections, where people in any country should be allowed to elect representatives of their choice, and not have them imposed on them through rigged elections, brutalizing opponents, military interventions, constitutional amendments to stay longer in power, and one man rule that goes on for decades.

14. Every country has a pool of people who have the ability to lead. Why should only one person whilst in office feel that they have a monopoly on good ideas to take a country forward. Let others come in to take their turn. No leader should think they are God's Gift to the people they lead and that no one else is capable of doing the same and even better. In fact, history and examples clearly show that the majority of leaders who have embarked upon extended periods in office have turned out to be the worst leaders, with the poorest democratic credentials. And it is those leaders who as any leader should, which is to manage the affairs of their nation in the best interests of their citizens, do the opposite, and abuse their office to serve only their own interests, and leave their poor fellow citizens who rely on them for their welfare suffering the consequences. Power corrupts, and as the Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair I think once said, "The best way to deal with power is to relinquish it."

15. I trust that you will have three days of fruitful deliberations. My firm belief is that lessons learnt from the various resource persons will assist to enhance democracy.

16. I would further urge you to continuously engage the general public on the theme of the conference.

17. May I, in conclusion, invite you to take time out of your busy schedule to visit some of our places of interest in and around Gaborone and also request you to come back to visit our prestigious tourist destinations.

18. On this note, I wish to declare the Parliamentary Conference on Democracy in Africa officially open and wish you a pleasant and productive stay in Botswana. PULA!!!!!!!!

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