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BOKO FIRST, UDC LAST

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ALL OVER THE PLACE: President Duma Boko is seen to elevate himself over UDC

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader Advocate Duma Boko’s decision to become the face of the coalition 2019 campaign seems to be raising eyebrows among members as they feel there is too much personalisation of the coalition by the leader.

Ever since the UDC leader started off his ten-day countrywide campaigns there has been controversy surrounding his campaign style where some within the party feel he wants everything to be about him as the party president.

He has even been accused of leaving behind his running mate Dumelang Saleshando for this year’s general elections, or even the UDC National Executive Committee (NEC). In hushed tones, some complain about his application to patent the UDC branding to his name; the use of aircrafts branded and personalized to his name; as well as the recent claims that he wants the coalition to take advantage of former President Dr Ian Khama for political mileage in ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) stronghold constituencies.

SOME UDC TOP MEN SOUGHT THE ELDERS’INTERVENTION
Those who have been timid to openly show their discomfort with how Boko wants to run things, including prominent figures within the coalition, are said to have secretly enlisted the intervention of the elders associated with the UDC contracting partners. It is for this reason that recently a number of these elders, including Michael Dingake of the BCP and the BNF Veterans structure were seen to openly warn against tainting the opposition coalition culture.

This has since divided the UDC as some are happy and have no issue with the way Boko goes about the campaign business, while others believe it could be suicidal. Advocate Boko has since indicated that they do not hate Dr Khama but were, and are still against the BDP-government system.

Regarding his running mate Advocate Boko who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament, has pointed out that Saleshando is busy with the coalition manifesto and would soon be visible. He explained that Saleshando would soon have his own set of wings if the need arises. The UDC will launch its manifesto this week in Maun. There have been unconfirmed claims that Dr Khama might grace the event. There are however fears among contracting partners that his attendance might cloud the focus of the event.

UDC members believe the use of Dr Khama to wrestle power especially by unseating BDP in its strongholds might raise the question of credibility or strength by the UDC in such areas. Sources believe that acceptable alignment to the UDC by Batswana might be questionable when the former BDP President is used. However, it seems with determination and hunger to unseat the ruling party Advocate Boko is determined to fight with anything at his disposal.

The BDP is putting Dr Khama at arms-length and last week he sought guidance from his subjects during a meeting in Serowe on what he should do with his political life. This development has since annoyed UDC contracting member- Botswana National Front (BNF) Veterans Association. The veterans whom last year called for the BNF to ditch the UDC have expressed disappointment that there could be secret funding from Dr Khama.

They are calling for the members of the UDC to condemn and oppose such funding. The veterans have since issued a letter regarding this development. They argue that the funding and endorsement of UDC candidates for 2019 have not been sanctioned by the NEC but are personally the brainchild of the UDC President.

THE BNF VETERANS NOT BACKING DOWN
This week BNF Veterans Chairman Patrick Kgoadi told The Midweek Sun that they stand by their letter and press statement regarding the influence of external forces in the UDC. This is not the first time that the BNF veterans have expressed their unhappiness at the way their leader is dealing with issues of funding of both the BNF and the UDC.

Last year the veterans raised alarm when Advocate Boko took it upon himself to transport delegates to the BNF Conference in Rakops from the 57 constituencies and to take care of other logistics. The veterans expressed concern that the funds were not routed through rightful BNF channels. This week Kgoadi said despite what the UDC leader has been saying in trying to clear the mist they believe they have to meet to further clarify things for the benefit of ‘everyone.’

He said what they are doing should not be seen as an attack on the leadership but doing what principle dictates as per the culture of the BNF. “BNF is the backbone of the coalition and we should be seen to be doing things right. As the BNF we have for many years opposed external funding especially the one that is not routed through rightful party structures. “We do not know what the motive of such funding is because there is always a motive as we have experienced with Botswana Democratic Party!

“We will engage our central committee. It is not a question of whether we would be listened to or not but it is all about principle,” he revealed. Kgoadi stated that they are worried about media reports on what is happening to the coalition. “We also want to know if our leadership is still on course regarding the mandate they have in uniting the opposition or now things have changed and the opposition is being torn apart,” he said.

The UDC campaign is being led by a South Africa Political Specialist Firm called Status. The company is doing the Public Relations, Branding and Marketing for the UDC by packaging messages to suit targeted audiences. For many this campaign has much focused on Advocate Boko and not much on the coalition project. Advocate Boko recently told UDC members to remain unshaken and put trust in him.

He revealed that after the Manifesto launch, people would understand the type of campaign he is unleashing on the BDP. He has since rubbished claims that the campaign is only about him saying the naysayers do not understand his approach and strategy.

IT IS REGRETTABLE – MOETI MOHWASA
BNF’s Secretary General and UDC Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa is disappointed that things have turned up this way at the UDC. In his response he said:
“It is unfortunate that a structure within the BNF, which knows processes of the party would want to communicate issues through the press. We are not saying there shouldn’t be different views but it has to be done through proper channels.

The president is not personalising anything, which is why during the UDC NEC meeting of March 5 2019 Boko briefed them about the helicopters. It is regrettable that we find ourselves in this situation and it has since emerged that some of the veterans are not aware of the media statement. We expect the veterans to lead by example having been there before in some of the BNF structures.

On the issue of Khama, he is not a UDC member and remains a BDP member. Our stand is that anyone who wants to help us fight the BDP is welcome to do so. We have worked with other former BDP members; others were even in high positions within the BDP, but they left the party to join us and help us fight the BDP.

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Youth lament slow pace towards ICPD commitments

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Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.

Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.

He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.

“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.

“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.

“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.

Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”

She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.

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Safe communities for our women and girls – Moalosi

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Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been identified as one of the critical issues that impede women, girls and men from fully enjoying their human rights and unleashing their potential. Delivering his State of the National Address (SONA) on Monday, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the rising statistics of those affected.

The National Relationship Study of 2018 revealed that 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men have suffered some form of violence in their lifetime, which occurred within Intimate Partner Relationships.

To address this problem, President Masisi says government will intensify the implementation of the National Strategy Towards Ending GBV. The Strategy focuses on the comprehensive care and support of GBV survivors; the Prevention of new GBV incidences; Strengthening national capacity to address GBV; Improving efficiency and effectiveness of the coordination and management of the national GBV response; and Strategic information and knowledge management on GBV.

Just last week, Botswana Non-Governmental Organisations represented at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, committed to ensuring that all is done to end GBV.CEO of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, Lorato Moalosi who was presenting on behalf of Botswana NGOs said having reflected on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda since 1994 and on what has changed on Sexual GBV, they are equally disturbed by increasing levels of SGBV in Botswana communities.

Her desire is to empower communities to come up with their own solutions to end SGBV. Moalosi told participants at the Summit that NGOs in Botswana commit to contracting and ensuring robust community engagement, including starting indigenous and disability movements on SGBV to galvanise and mobilise communities to prevent and respond to SGBV. Their plan is to also develop sustained gender transformative programmes that mainstream HIV and GBV, as well as to expand reach and coverage of services and create community safe spaces for the hard to reach, as well as improve services in urban areas.

“We commit to utilising social contracting and ensure NGOs lead in the prevention of SGBV and in the response to ending SGBV at community level,” Moalosi said, adding that they also commit to mainstreaming gender equality conversations and break the silence on SGBV.

“We can no longer hold back. Our communities have to be safe for our women and girls,” she said. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 that concluded hursday last week in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi represents a renewed, re-energised vision and community working together to act and deliver.

“Together, we will make the next ten years a decade of action and results for women and girls, keeping their rights and choices at the centre of everything we do,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.

Denmark’s Special Envoy for the ICPD25, Ambassador Ib Petersen said there will be no ICPD50 because women and girls around the world have waited long enough to have rights and choices.

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