Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi is on a charm offensive and it seems that he has eyes set on Kenya.
President Masisi is currently in Kenya for a three-day State visit in which the two countries have signed three agreements on air transport, trade, and ICT. The three agreements include one that shields traders from double taxation, a bilateral air service agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding on Information Communication and Technology (ICT).
However, that is not the sole reason as to why President Masisi is in Kenya. Ever since he lifted the ban on ivory trade earlier this year, he has received backlash from local and international wildlife conservationists. Additionally, the fall out between him and former President Ian Khama has only worsened the situation.
Notably, ivory ban was enforced during former President Khama's regime and President Masisi's government recently lifted a four-year moratorium on trophy hunting amid opposition from conservationists who argued that the move could lead to a decline in wildlife populations.
Arguably, the lifting of the hunting ban is said to have followed consultations with communities living near or in conservation areas who saw the move as a blessing since the growing herds of elephants were beginning to cause havoc in their areas. However, Khama's loyalists read malice and as such have accused the incumbent of trying to erase the former President's legacy.
It has since emerged that President Masisi main reason for visiting Kenya is to lobby the East African country in an effort to convince it to change its position on ivory trade. Kenya is a strong opponent of the ivory trade and previous efforts by Botswana to convince the influential East African country to shift her position have met with little success.
According to President Masisi's insiders, the President is on a mission to convince Kenya to support ivory trade ahead of the forthcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) meeting scheduled for Switzerland in August. Presently, Kenya backs a CITES ban on global ivory trade while Botswana and other Southern African Development Community (SADC) member such as Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are calling for limited trade on elephant tasks to be allowed.
Botswana’s Tourism Minister Kitso Mokaila believes that the two countries will continue to engage each other bilaterally. According to Mokaila:
Kenya and other nations have made a proposal to CITES that Botswana elephants and those of neighbouring states, namely Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, be uplifted from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1, a proposition that Botswana has objected to forthwith, more so given that this was formulated without our input."
Appendix 1 prohibits trade in elephant products while Appendix 2 allows for controlled trade in some elephant products.
Mokaila said Botswana’s position, which is shared by other SADC member states, is that communities should be allowed to get involved in the sustainable management of elephants.
Botswana has an elephant population of close to 100,000, which is way above the country’s carrying capacity.
Botswana, Mokaila said, will continue to engage Kenya, which he described as one the key strategic partners as it continues to attract a wide range of tourists.
There is a lot that Botswana can learn from Kenya as far as the tourism sector is concerned,” the minister said.
A few years ago, Kenya took a decision to burn ivory stockpiles as a way of discouraging elephant poaching. Botswana, however, believes that it has to continue putting pressure on CITES to allow for the sale of stockpiles as well as build museums to raise funds to improve the lives of people living in conservation areas.
Whether or not Kenya will change its position remains to be seen. Interestingly, Botswana has pledged to support Kenya's 2021 -2022 bid for a non-permanent UN Security Council seat. The elections are expected in September during the 74th United Nations General Assembly.
Kenya has previously held the non-permanent UN Security Council seat twice in 1973-1974 and 1997-1998.
The UN Security Council has 15 members. Five are permanent members with veto powers (France, Russia, China, UK, and the US). The rest ten are non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
Is it a case of scratch my back and I'll scratch yours? Whatever the case may be, only time will tell.
Header Image Credit: Zuma Press/ PA Images