BOTSWANA-SOUTH KOREA RELATIONS UNDER PRESIDENT IAN KHAMA’S PRESIDENCY: 2014-2018
This paper broadly explores Botswana-South Korea relations during the second term of President Ian Khama’s presidency (2014-2018). Botswana and South Korea established diplomatic relations in March 1968, but the relations remained largely on paper and were only revived after President Ian Khama’s bold decision to terminate diplomatic relations with North Korea, South Korea’s rival, in February 2014. Khama became an instant celebrity in South Korea, and the South Korean government invited him to Seoul in October 2015. South Korea views Botswana as a reliable friend to the extent that Konkuk University awarded Khama an honorary PhD in Political Science during his visit. In Botswana, this sparked divisive debate, with critics arguing that he does not deserve it. Some posited that this ‘phony degree’ is a ‘bribe’ by Seoul to access Botswana’s mineral wealth. Botswana-South Korea military cooperation has also elicited intense criticisms, mainly from Botswana’s opposition political parties. Since 2014, South Korean firms have increasingly won tenders, mainly in the energy sector in Botswana. Khama’s strong relations with Seoul, unlike his predecessors, should be contextualised within his sour relations with both North Korea and China. This exploratory paper opens up an avenue for more research into this under researched terrain.