By Dumiso Gatsha
COVID-19, Corruption and Violence have dominated public discourse in the Southern African region, more notably in South Africa and Botswana. Out of the blue, Botswana ratifies the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Little to no dialogue has occurred, neither have statements in any international or public fora on Botswana’s favor of this treaty. There have been many citizen concerns and public statements since the six-month state of emergency was imposed, however, this was a surprise – or diversion. Although it is a positive development, it highlights how disengaged government leadership is to the concerns of the citizens.
Nuclear power has been a public issue in South Africa, but not Botswana. Other Southern African countries have had public discourse or at least media reports on the same. In country, Botswana has never had it as one of the leading current affairs issues. Thus, it begs the question as to why this specific treaty alone and not others? Such as The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa or International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights? These would be far more impactful and effective for the country and its citizens.
I am reminded of this complacence or ‘diversion’ from important issues of how the state behaves when accountability lacks. Their justification for not signing The Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development before doing so in 2017 was based on ‘meeting the targets but not having adequately prepared to sign’. In other words, that the government needed to institutionalize and ensure infrastructure to support the instrument. It made sense that there must be a sound foundation for any progress made but – did not make sense since there was tangible progress without it. Thus, what the government was really saying was that in this instance, we are not able to be accountable on women’s rights issues.
It is one less country needed for Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to take effect. A good start amidst a global pandemic. However, true to governments of distraction. Those who pose the biggest threats to peace and nuclear disarmament are yet to sign on. Even more glaring, with the most recent UN Security Council resolution 2535 on Youth, Peace, and Security: young people are yet to be meaningfully engaged in peace processes. This refers to young people being resources in programming, having unrestricted funds for their organizing and being allowed to build solutions within or outside development frameworks, agreements and structures.
This ratification ideally is a moment for young people and civil society organizations alike, to stimulate dialogue in country and across the region. It should widen the scope of peacemaking efforts to bridge the gaps between law and militarization. Especially in a challenging time of brutal policing, civic action and censorship under COVID-19 related regulations. Democracy demands of us to remind our leaders of the electoral dispensation we gave. Human rights demands of us to recalibrate how citizens are treated and dignity from the state is secured. Distractions demand of us to keep leaders accountable and transparent regardless of ratifying instruments or managing a crisis.