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Botswana 2023

The right to freedom of expression was restricted. Severe medicine shortages undermined the right to health. Potential advances in the rights of LGBTI people were threatened. Gender-based violence remained prevalent. Botswana continued to use the death penalty.

Freedom of expression

During the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR in May, concerns were raised about an increase in measures that repressed peaceful dissent, including the persecution of political opponents and the use of arbitrary detention.

Between 12 and 16 July, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security arrested leaders of the Botswana Patriotic Front opposition party Lawrence Ookeditse, Lazarus Lekgoanyana and Dinah Monte, in locations around the capital, Gaborone. Then, on 20 July, they arrested journalists Ryder Gabathuse and Innocent Selatlhwa at the Mmegi newspaper offices in Gaborone. Electronic devices belonging to all five of them were seized and retained. No charges were brought against them, the journalists were released after 24 hours, and two of the opposition leaders were released after several hours. Lawrence Ookeditse was detained for over 48 hours without charge, in contravention of national legislation.

Right to health

A severe shortage of essential medicines in health facilities continued in several districts. The shortage was blamed on various factors, including inadequate funding for the procurement of medicines, delays in overseas deliveries, and corruption and mismanagement in the procurement system. In August, nurses went on strike over pay and refused to dispense medication after negotiations with the government reached a deadlock, compounding the crisis.


LGBTI people’s rights

On 22 July, hundreds of protesters, backed by various religious groups, took to the streets of Gaborone to oppose a bill to legalize consensual same-sex relations that was designed to align with a 2019 court ruling, which affirmed the human rights of LGBTI people.

Gender-based violence

According to a report from research network Afrobarometer in January, gender-based violence remained a major concern in Botswana, with 50% of citizens saying it was common in their community. Over four in 10 respondents said that women reporting incidents of such violence against them were likely to face criticism, harassment or shaming. Also in January, sex workers said they were sexually assaulted, harassed and had money extorted from them by on-duty and uniformed police and military personnel.

In December, the Botswana Police Service said it recorded 87 cases of rape and 42 cases of statutory rape over the Christmas holiday period.

The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (a pan-African NGO), made a complaint in August to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, regarding the government’s failure to investigate and bring an alleged male offender, also a well-known figure, to justice in connection with the repeated rape of a child between 2017 and 2020.

Death penalty

Botswana continued to use the death penalty. In May, Mmoloki Pholo was sentenced to death for the murder of Kemme Mercy Sebolao.