Botsawana’s former vice president opts out of peace conference citing Dalai Lama’s absence

Botsawana’s former vice president Ponatshego Kedikilwe. (Photo courtesy; daily news)
Botsawana’s former vice president Ponatshego Kedikilwe. (Photo courtesy; daily news)

(, Aug19, 2017) – One of the major participants in the three-day Ubuntu/Botho peace conference which opened on Aug 17 in Botswana’s capital Gaborone has pulled out, citing Dalai Lama’s absence, while there have been cancellation of tickets as well, reported Aug 17. Botsawana’s former vice president Ponatshego Kedikilwe has said he was opting out because the discussion was to be with the Dalai Lama and it could no longer be held.

“I won’t be coming because the discussions were supposed to be between us and the Dalai Lama in whose absence they cannot be held,” the report quoted Kedikilwe as saying by phone the day before.

The report said the Dalai Lama was to be the headline feature at the conference whose objective was to “promote exchange of ideas between spirituality, humanity and science”.

Organisers of the event, the Mind & Life Institute, were cited as saying the conference, to be held at Botho University, was sold-out weeks in advance, with tents having been set up for overflow.

In separate messages to President Ian Khama and the organizers of the conference on Aug 12, the Dalai Lama had expressed ‘profound apology’ for not being able to come due to exhaustion resulting from his busy schedules over the past weeks.

However, according to the report, Botswana’s Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs was on Aug 16 “still flip-flopping about whether the Dalai Lama had been issued a visa”. It noted that at the height of the diplomatic spat between Botswana and China, the Ministry found itself at the centre of questions about whether the Dalai Lama had been granted a visa and that it gave conflicting responses.

On Aug 15, the report said, the chief public relations officer in the ministry, Hannah Ramorogo, had told it that there was no trace of a visa issuance for the exiled spiritual leader in their system. However, hours later, Ramorogo retracted her earlier statement and, in writing, said the Tibetan leader had in fact been issued with a visa, the report added.

“Please be informed that in fact the Dalai Lama had been issued with a visa to visit Botswana as opposed to our earlier response,” the report quoted her as saying.

Meanwhile, on Aug 18 the Dalai Lama sent a video message to President Khama and the organisers of the conference, expressing heartfelt regrets for his absence, explaining again that “due to the busy schedules of the last two months, I am feeling extremely tired physically.”

“Usually, the high altitude of Ladakh doesn’t affect me much, but this time, I think because of my age, I felt very tired. So, even though my spirit is high, my body doesn’t seem to agree. Therefore, I have no alternative but to cancel the visit,” he was reported to have explained.

However, he has added that the cancellation of his visit was only a postponement, for he hoped for another opportunity to come soon.

Along with participating in the conference, the Dalai Lama was to take part in other events as well, including holding a meeting with President Khama.


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