Botswana: free and fair elections must be guaranteed and lead to a comprehensive human rights agenda

Press release

Paris, Gaborone, October 23, 2014 – General elections in Botswana will be held on October 24, 2014. While the electoral campaign has been marked by allegations of acts of violence, harassment and intimidation against political opponents and independent journalists, FIDH and DITSHWANELO call upon national authorities to ensure that the polls are safe, transparent, free, fair and peaceful. Our organisations further call upon all contesting parties to ensure that, upon winning elections, they uphold their human rights commitments and obligations.

During this year’s electoral campaign, political opponents have allegedly been the targets of acts of violence perpetrated at the hands of State agents and have reported cases of threats or tailing. Freedom of expression was also seriously curtailed when, on September 8, 2014, the journalist Outsa Mokone, Editor of the Sunday Standard, was arrested and charged with “sedition” for the publication of an article claiming that the President was involved in a road traffic accident. The following day, the offices of his newspaper were raided by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) who searched for “seditious” material which could further implicate the publication.

“Botswana has never experienced such a tense political environment. No matter what the outcome of the upcoming elections, the allegations of threats, harassment and intimidation must be adequately investigated by the authorities” declared Alice Mogwe, DITSHWANELO Executive Director and FIDH Deputy Secretary General. “Winning parties must further ensure that the observance of the rule of law constitutes the core basis of their plan of action. This means that all should respect fundamental rights and freedoms, guarantee non-discrimination and effective access to justice” she added.

In their political manifestos, the three main parties running for the upcoming elections – the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) – have committed to guarantee, in the event that they are elected, respect for good governance and the rule of law, as well as a number of fundamental human rights and freedoms including access to justice, freedom of expression and information, the protection of women’s rights and the protection of land rights.

While FIDH and DITSHWANELO welcome such engagements, our organisations expect that they will lead to concrete measures such as the strengthening of the administration of justice, through the adoption of a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition ; the repealing and elimination of all discriminatory laws and practices against women and the protection of the rights of human rights defenders and journalists. In a context where discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers, sexual minorities and indigenous people continue to prevail and were marginalised in the political discourse, our organisations further expect that their rights will form an integral part of the Botswana human rights agenda. FIDH and DITSHWANELO also reiterate their call upon the authorities of Botswana to strengthen their human rights normative framework through the ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Protocol to the African Charter establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President, stated that, “as a recently re-elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Botswana is expected to act as a human rights guarantor on the regional and international scenes. This implies national commitments and obligations, including the holding of free and fair elections and the implementation of a comprehensive human rights agenda”.

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