NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 13 – Botswana has now retracted an earlier statement declaring President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta persona non-grata, if he refuses to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Botswana Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani changed his stand to state that Kenyatta was most welcome to visit Botswana because he was innocent until proven guilty and because he had been cooperating with The Hague-based Court.
Skelemani added that his earlier statement had been misinterpreted, and maintained that Botswana would continue working with Kenya.
“I apologise to the Kenyan people for misunderstanding my earlier statement. I wish to maintain that Kenya and Botswana have always worked together and nothing will distract that,” he said.
“I would also wish the newly elected President of Kenya and his government all the best in the new responsibility of governing Kenya,” he added.
The Minister had earlier told Mmegi – a Botswana news outlet – that Kenyatta should not set foot in the country if he declines to cooperate with the ICC.
He however said that he expected Kenyatta and Deputy President-elect William Ruto to heed to all the ICC calls, when their cases resume.
“If he refuses to go (to The Hague), then we have a problem. That means that they do not know the rule of law. You can’t establish a Court and refuse to go when it calls you. If he refuses, he won’t set foot here,” Skelemani said.
Skelemani’s statement grabbed Kenyans’ attention and rubbed some of them the wrong way.
While they took to social networks like Twitter and Facebook to express their bile, the Batswana also responded with equal venom.
The trends #SomeoneTellBotswana and #SomeoneTellKenya were started on Twitter where rants from both Kenyans and Batswana were expressed.
And even though some Kenyans once again accepted the apology on their social networks, the Twitter war continued.
Government spokesman Muthui Kariuki also took issue with the statement saying it was disrespectful.
“As we know what is required of us under the Rome statute, we will continue to respect that position, no Kenyan has ever refused to go to the ICC and we expect Uhuru Kenyatta to comply,” he said.