The Botswana government has distanced itself from the planned visit by the exiled Tibet spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, local media confirmed.
The Southern Times newspaper on Monday quoted government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay as saying: “The government of Botswana has no official involvement in a three-day conference entitled “Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama Spirituality, Science and Humanity.”
According to the publication, the conference organised by the Mind and Life Institute, is scheduled for August 17-19.
The opening address
Speculation was rife that the government's stance was due to the fear of a backlash from China.
“President (Ian) Khama shall not be delivering the opening address at the event, neither shall he be participating in the said conference in any other way,” Dr Ramsay was also quoted.
The conference organisers earlier this month said President Khama was expected to give the opening address and that Nelson Mandela’s widower, Ms Graca Machel, would also address the session.
According to the Southern Times, the Chinese embassy in Gaborone had suspended all the scholarships and workshops meant for Botswana.
“Beijing has instructed its embassy in Gaborone to suspend sponsorship seminars, adding that most of the trainings were supposed to start in July and none of those who were supposed to travel to China have been called.”
The paper said the Chinese embassy declined to discuss the issue.
Earlier this month, the Gaborone authorities confirmed that the Dalai Lama would be visiting Botswana.
Botswana is one of the Africa’s most stable countries and is also known as the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy.
The southern African nation is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.
The Dalai Lama is the 1989 Nobel peace prize winner.
South Africa has declined to grant the Dalai Lama a visit visa on three occasions, the last time being in 2014.
Reports said the South Africa action was out of fear of annoying China.
The Dalai Lama seeks autonomy for Tibet, while China insists it was already autonomous and accuses the former of seeking independence.