The UPR is a five-year cycle appraisal process, in which selected countries face scrutiny from their peers on various issues of human rights obligations and commitments.
Botswana has been under the scalpel twice, in 2008 and 2013, in which the country was served with recommendations to account to universal expectations.
The UPRinfo Nairobi-based regional office Director, Gilbert Onyango was in Gaborone recently in an effort to rally civil society in preparations for the pre-session event, to take place in Geneva on December 15, in which they will have the opportunity to lobby the world diplomatic community.
“UPR info is keen to support Botswana at all stages of the UPR process by sharing experiences and facilitating the process,” said Onyango, when counselling the local civil society participants who presented on issues ranging from socio-economics to civil and political rights.
Red lights for the need of clinical inspection have been blinking for the past few years in this largely serene Southern African landlocked nation.
Just recently, an altercation ensued between the government and refugees over the confusion of their authentic place of abode during and after the process of their asylum seeking.
The government was insisting they be housed at a detention centre of illegal immigrants while they, through their lawyer, Morgan Moseki, asked that they be accommodated at the country’s refugee camp in Dukwi, located in the northern part of the capital city Gaborone and close to the second city, Francistown.
After back and forth court sessions, the matter was subsequently ruled in favour of the refugees by the court of law and the refugees, amongst them children, have since been relocated to the camp.
The sexual orientation issues have also been dominating mainstream media with the advocacy NGO, LEGABIBO having had to go through the courts, to secure the right to register in the country. On the other hand, outlawing of community radios remains a blot in the country’s respect for freedom of expression as espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ article 19.
Activists believe that by limiting the diversity of media platforms, the country is directly curtailing the right to information and freedom of expression, which is ironically recognised by the country’s Constitution in Section 12.
Onyango prevailed upon his audience the importance of dialogue in resolving issues because according to him, there is no other effective alternative as dialogue keeps the engagement space open.
very important so that we are able to speak. The essence of UPR is collaboration between all sectors”.
He also applauded Botswana’s civil society for presenting their issues as a coalition, something which he said would easily convince the international diplomats to take heed of their concerns and pass them to the Botswana government.
The Director of Ditshwanelo, the Human Rights Centre in Botswana, Alice Mogwe who is also the leading convener of the local civil society coalition, echoed similar sentiments.
“We have to identify common threads that link civil society together. UPR is for Batswana not particular NGOs. Views or observations should rise above partisan loyalties and be of national interest”.
She further reiterated that the pivotal point for human rights in Botswana is botho, which she believes should be the base for the understanding of human rights.
“A person is a person through the engagement with other people,” she stated.
The issues that are likely to feature in the civil society advocacy list are access to information, death penalty, sexual orientation rights, community engagement, refugees, women and children rights, disability, food security, ex-miners and many others which were prominent in the discussions. The international diplomats that attended the in-country session were from the United States America, European Union, Libya, Angola, Japan, France and Germany embassies.
Botswana has in the previous two UPR sessions of 2008 and 2013 got a total of 277 recommendations from 76 states, but only accepted 163 of them.
The UPR statistics further show that in the second and last session of 2013 alone, Botswana received 176 recommendations from 67 states and accepted 114 of them. Some of the countries that made the recommendations were France, Germany, Italy, Uruguay, Norway, Australia, Togo and seven others.
This means, in the second session, the recommending countries almost doubled from 35 to 67, while the issues raised shot up from 101 to 114 in the successive sessions respectively.
According to Onyango’s presentation, the issues raised in the previous sessions included, women rights, rights of the child, death penalty, justice, national human rights institution, right to education, poverty, indigenous peoples, disability, sexual orientation and gender rights.
The glaring snag in the UPR process is the absence of a UN-based mechanism to enforce implementation of the accepted recommendations. The countries, therefore can only account to their commitments in the next round of review, provided the issues re-surface.