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Is peaceful Botswana not good enough for a Nobel Peace Prize?

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Despite its remarkable record as the onlySub-Saharan African country to havemaintained liberal multi-party democracy,relative economic prosperity and peace as well aspolitical stability, Botswana has neither a single Nobellaureate nor a nominee for 2013 awards. Noneof Botswana’s former presidents, human rights activistsor individuals who played part in promotingpeace across Africa has ever won the award. NoMotswana has won the prize for eminence in any ofthe fi ve categories for the award.Nobel Prizes were posthumously instituted by aSwedish scientist, innovator and inventor, AlfredBernhard Nobel, using his fortunes. The fi rst threeof these prizes are awarded for eminence in naturalscience, in chemistry and in medical science orphysiology; the fourth for literary work and thefi fth prize is to be given to the person or society thatrenders the greatest service to the cause of internationalfraternity, in the suppression or reduction ofstanding armies, or in the establishment or furtheranceof peace congressesThere are 259 candidates nominated for the NobelPeace Prize for this year. 50 of the nomineesare organizations.

 

259 is the highest number ofcandidates ever. The previous record was 241 in2011. The prestigious accolade has been awardedto only eight Africans in its 112 year history. Theeight African Nobel laureates awarded for varioushumanitarian efforts in the past two decadesare Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Ellen JohnsonSirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Desmond Tutu, WangariMaathai, Mohamed El Baradei and Frederik Willemde Klerk.On why Batswana have never won the award,pundits have argued that the low number of biographiesdocumenting their roles in the democracy andpeace to a world audience is partly to blame.In 2005, Professor Lydia Nyathi-Saleshando wasone of the 1000 women proposed for the NobelPeace Prize.

 

Maathai, Johnson Sirleaf and Gbowee,the only African women laureates, have won theaward because of their tireless contribution to democracyand equality to their countries.Nyathi-Saleshando’s 2005 inclusion in the 1000women proposed for the global award emanatedfrom her relentless fi ght for the linguistic and culturalrights of non Tswana speaking tribes in Botswana.The constitution of Botswana, the ChieftainshipAct and the Tribal Territories Act remaindiscriminatory against the non-Tswana speakingtribes. A Moyeyi, she worked closely with the Bayeyitribe whose language has become a minoritylanguage notwithstanding the fact that they are amajority. She co-founded Kamanakao Associationwhich promotes the linguistic and cultural rightsof Bayeyi. She also funded a feasibility study for acommunity radio station in the North West regionwhere Seyeyi is a dominant language.

 

Through herefforts and other activists, the government of Botswanaset up a committee to review all laws thatdiscriminate non-Tswana speaking tribes such asthe Wayeyi and the Basarwa.Botswana’s former president, Sir Ketumile Masirehas also made an immense contribution topeace pacts in numerous countries. Masire wasthe chairman of the International Panel of EminentPersonalities investigating the circumstances surroundingthe 1994 Rwanda genocide.In the early 2000s he was also the facilitator forthe Inter-Congolese National Dialogue which wasmeant to introduce a new political era for the DemocraticRepublic of Congo. In 2008 he was a mediatorduring Kenya’s post election confl ict.Earlier his year he was part of the Global LeadershipFoundation (GLF) team which met with Kenyanleaders before the March elections, his contributionwas to give guidance and oversee a peacepre-election atmosphere in the country.Government spokesman and Historian, Dr JeffRamsay, believes that Masire’s work is often underestimated.

 

“Sir Ketumile Masire’s internationallegacy has I believe been especially underestimatedat a popular level, perhaps because he himself hasbeen humble about it,” said Ramsay.He also stated that, “In my personal view any ofour fi rst three Presidents; Sir Seretse, Sir KetumileMasire, Festus Mogae could qualify for their promotionof peace, dialogue and good governance inthe region. We do also have outstanding activistslike Unity Dow who have already been honouredby others.” Ramsay added that there was talk offormer President Mogae being nominated as globalstatesman in the fi ght against HIV/AIDS, but hecould not confi rm if it occurred. He further statedthat he hopes one of Botswana young activist willget it based on his/her future as well as current contributionsof global interest.Michael Kitso Dingake, one of the few Batswanawho have had a rare privilege of meeting and workingwith former South African President and internationalicon, Nelson Mandela, told The Gazette,“Humanitarian efforts by some of our past presidentand activists or individuals are commendable.Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Masire hosted South Africans,Zimbabweans, Angolans and Mozambicansduring the Liberation wars in those countries.

 

Thiswas evidence of their great dedication to humanitarianism,but the hosting of refugees is somethingthat many countries routinely do all over the worldso that on its own does not entitle national rulers toNobel Peace Prizes,” he said.Dingake said personally he does not see any ofthe past presidents qualifying for the Nobel PeacePrize, “Generally the prize appears to be receivedby leaders who appear to have made outstandingpersonal sacrifi ces in a particular role they undertookin the course of their lives. To me TshekediKhama deserved the Nobel Prize. He was the subjectchief of the Independence of Namibia.

 

He appliedfor a VISA to go to the United Nations but thePrime Minister of South Africa that time refusedhim a VISA. He did not give up; he was workingwith the ANC. Through an Anglican Minister,Michael Scott, he managed to take a petition fromhere to the United States. That was something thatparticularly at that time, nobody, not even the ANCcould think about. He worked with the ANC thattime but it was a personal initiative. A man like thatplaying that role and under such conditions couldhave easily got the Nobel Peace award or at least anomination,” he said.

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