African Commission rules outspoken academic wrongly deported from Botswana

Bushmen children, Botswana.
Bushmen children, Botswana.
© Survival International

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has declared that outspoken academic, Professor Kenneth Good, was wrongly deported from Botswana after criticizing the lack of democracy in the country.

Professor Good worked as professor of political studies at the University of Botswana for fifteen years before being expelled from Botswana in 2005. His deportation came shortly after he released a paper in which he criticized automatic presidential succession in Botswana.

The then president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, branded Good ‘a threat to national security’ and described him as ‘an undesirable inhabitant of Botswana’.

Professor Good has also been a fierce critic of the government’s treatment of the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, arguing that ‘the weakness of democracy has facilitated [the subordination] of the San [Bushmen]’.

The Commission issued a scathing critique of the Botswana government’s presidentialism and the weakness of the judicial institutions. Vindicating Good’s actions, it declared that the Botswana government violated various articles of the African Charter, and ordered it to pay adequate compensation to Good, and to take steps to bring the country’s Immigration Act in line with international human rights standards.

However, the Botswana government has responded by refusing to honour the Commission’s ruling. Foreign Affairs Minister, Phandu Skelemani, told reporters, ‘We are not going to follow on the recommendation made by the Commission; it does not give orders, and it is not a court. We are not going to listen to them. We will not compensate Mr Good.’

Speaking about the ruling, Professor Good said, ‘This represents a victory for academic freedom and human rights, and a blow against presidentialism and non-accountability. It is a landmark African legal decision, which Botswana is obliged to uphold under international law. To ignore its findings is to embrace rogue statehood’.

Lt General Ian Khama automatically succeeded Mogae as president in 2008, a move which Good says has brought about ‘an escalation in the militarization and personalization of power in Botswana’. Since becoming president, Khama has continued the policy of subordination of the Bushmen, and has banned them from accessing a borehole which they rely on for water on their lands.