One of my favorite movies growing up was The Last of the Mohicans. If you are unfamiliar, it is based on the historical novel of the same name about the French and Indian War and the use of Native Americans by the French and British Armies. If you are not up on your history, here’s the Cliff Notes: the French and the British fought each other from 1754 to 1763 for control of North America. Since neither the French nor the British knew the continent all that well they used American Indians as informants in an effort to outmaneuver each another. Obviously the British won which is why we don’t speak French. Moving on…
As I was saying my favorite movie was The Last of the Mohicans. My brother’s favorite movie is equally cerebral, thus proving we are related: Dumb and Dumber. In The Last of the Mohicans there is a scene where one of the Native American informants is arguing with a British army officer. The British officer didn’t like that the Mohican was questioning his judgment and shouted, “That is Sedition!” The Mohican responded, “That is the Truth!”
Sedition is a word which is seldom, if ever heard in developed, western countries. Sedition involves speaking out against a political ruler (or nation) and encouraging others to rebel as well. In the U.S. we have freedom of speech (or freedom of expression), so we can voice our opinions regardless of whether they are in opposition to authority figures. We have freedom of assembly, so people can gather together and protest. We have freedom of the press, so the media can report without fear of legal repercussions. There are countless examples every day of acts which could be considered seditious, but in reality they aren’t. That is the benefit of being American.
Botswana is different. Botswana recently arrested a newspaper editor and charged him with sedition. The paper ran a story stating that President Khama had been involved in a car accident and apparently compensated the other driver by giving him a new Jeep. And what is seditious about this? I don’t know either. Here is the article if you would like to read it. Seems pretty straightforward if you ask me.
I will say the one thing I found curious about the article is that, “…while someone is holding the office of president and during his tenure, no civil or criminal proceedings can be instituted against them.” Hmmm… that is unsettling. And it reminds me a lot of our evil dictator to the north, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. At 90, you would think Mugabe would have retired by now, particularly since he’s been at the helm 34 years. Of course, that will never happen. He must die in office. If he retires he will either be tried by The Hague for human rights violations or his own people will kill him for all the suffering he’s put them through.
Back to Botswana, I have to say, I am disappointed. Botswana has been the shining beacon of hope for Africa for decades. It is the only consistently stable democracy which has never had any major problems, aside from HIV/AIDs and poverty, but then again, you can’t change the weather. Of course, there was that issue with the student elections which demonstrated the government is more corrupt than people give them credit for. I do hope this sedition situation is an outlier and not a sign that Botswana is moving the way of many of the other African countries (i.e. dictatorships). This is yet one more thing that reminds me why I am proud to be an American.