Bots calls for military intervention in Syria

Gaborone ‑ Botswana has once again differed with her neighbours on international matters by calling for military intervention in Syria. 

This is in contrast to South Africa and the Africa Forum ‑ an informal network of former African Heads of State and Government and other African leaders designed to support the implementation of the broad objectives of the African Union ‑ who have advocated for restraint and peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict.

In a hard-hitting statement released this past week, Botswana called for the overthrow of the Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad, which is battling rebels.

“As we explicitly expressed before, we hold the view that bloodshed and brutality being perpetrated by Assad's regime will only come to an end if there is regime change,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“For a long time, it has been conspicuous that Assad's regime is prepared to use chemical weapons to thwart any resistance to his tyrannical rule. 

“We therefore find the statement made by the United States secretary of state (John Kerry) on August 26, 2013, that the Syrian regime on August 21, 2013, used chemical weapons in the Damascus suburbs to be convincing and compelling.”

The ministry reiterated Botswana’s earlier position that punitive action in whatever form, should have long been taken against Assad's regime as “mass murder whether with conventional or non-conventional weapons is tantamount to crime against humanity”.

Botswana said it is quite disheartening that the international community has to continue to witness more and more atrocities being committed against the suffering Syrian people by the brutal and discredited Assad regime.

The Southern African state stressed that it is quite unfortunate that some members of the UN Security Council continue to use their veto power to frustrate any collective efforts to attempt to address the conflict situation in Syria. 

Botswana is of the view that recent allegations that the Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against unarmed civilians, was not the red line that necessitated military intervention. 

“The red line was crossed when Assad started using military force against innocent men, women and children.  

“How people are killed and wounded, whether with conventional or non-conventional weapons is irrelevant.  

“The fact that they are being killed in any manner at all is the issue. 

The number of deaths is estimated to now be in excess of seventy thousand.  

“These game changing statistics should have been addressed long ago. And now, peace talks, if they ever come about, should never allow Assad a way out or to stay on,” says Botswana.

Botswana says the expanding nature of the conflict across borders with the intended or unintended consequences that will see more and more bloodshed will remain a legacy for those who could have and others who should have intervened earlier and chose not to. 

But South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim was quoted as saying that military strikes could plunge Middle East into deeper conflict and “detract” attention away from finding a diplomatic and sustainable solution.

“We are concerned that the use of chemical weapons, as deplorable as it is, will detract from the larger picture of finding a sustainable resolution to the conflict in Syria, which should remain the primary focus of the international community,” Ebrahim said.

“South Africa does not believe that bombing the already suffering people and crumbling infrastructure of Syria, will contribute to a sustainable solution. 

“Military intervention will serve no other purpose than hurting the possibility of a speedy diplomatic solution to the conflict,” Ebrahim is quoted as saying.

South Africa has also objected to military intervention without the endorsement of the UN Security Council.

Africa Forum has also thrown its weight behind South Africa’s call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, in line with the fundamental position agreed by major players in the world.

The forum issued a statement on September 9, urging UN member states to desist from taking “any military action in Syria of any kind, including using the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government as justification for such action.

“It has been our understanding from the beginning that this conflict was occasioned by serious differences among the Syrian people concerning their country's constitutional and political system. 

“It was also our understanding that the root cause of the conflict was and remains essentially political. 

“Accordingly, its solution could only be political, and not military. 

Against this background, we have therefore held the view that the Syrian belligerents must urgently enter into inclusive negotiations to end the civil war through a peaceful process.

“The Forum Consequently, the international community has had the solemn responsibility to encourage and assist all the Syrians to engage in these inclusive negotiations.” 

September 2013
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