Botswana’s Foreign Affairs minister Phandu Skelemani has made a U-turn on his ban on President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta, saying he is free to visit as he is innocent until proven guilty.
Mr Skelemani had earlier told the country’s daily Mmegi Mr Kenyatta must not set foot in his country if he refuses to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“This is to retract my earlier statement about the President-elect of Kenya. Mr Uhuru Kenyatta is more than welcome to visit Botswana.
“Botswana is cognisant of a section of the law that says one is innocent until proven guilty,” he said in a statement.
Mr Kenyatta is facing charges of crimes against humanity related to the 2008 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people died.
His alleged co-perpetrators, Maj-Gen (rtd) Hussein Ali and former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura have been let of the hook for lack of evidence.
Mr Skelemani’s statement further said he appreciated Mr Kenyatta’s compliance with the ICC since the beginning of the hearings.
“I apologise to the Kenyan people for my earlier statement and wish to maintain that Kenya and Botswana have always worked together and nothing will change that,” he said.
Mr Skelemani wished Mr Kenyatta “all the best in the new responsibility of governing Kenya”.
Earlier, Kenya had described as “contemptuous” Mr Skelemani’s statement.
Government Spokesman Muthui Kariuki told the Nation that Kenya, like Botswana, is a signatory to the Rome Statute and will continue to undertake its obligations but will not be bullied.
“The government finds the statement contemptuous. We know what is required of us and will continue to respect that position,” he said.
“Mr Kenyatta has been accused, but he is not guilty until proven otherwise. In fact, he has always attended ICC sessions without failure and is on record he would continue to do so,” Mr Kariuki said.