When Chickens Come Home To Roost:The Case Of Unity Dow

Last week, in her response to the President's State of The Nation Address (SONA) , specially-elected member of parliament Unity Dow launched a scathing attack on the country's notorious intelligence agency, the DISS. After her heated submission, Dow was labelled a martyr by many on social media, a rare example of a ruling party member standing up for what's right for a change, so they said.

The DISS and its rogue way of operating is nothing new. Established in 2008 during the Khama administration, the agency was set up "...to oversee matters of the counterintelligence and internal security of Botswana...". Over the last 13 years of its existence, this overseeing has involved alleged participation in extra-judicial killings, harassment of opposition members and anyone considered a dissident, invasion of citizens' privacy and a long list of other tyrannical methods of operation.

What also isn't new is Dow's residency in positions of power within government over the last few years which gave her a platform to raise her disgruntlement of not only the DISS but a whole lot of other issues which were making life difficult for her fellow countrymen. In 2014, she was elected as a specially elected member of parliament by the then president Ian Khama. She was then appointed as the Assistant Minister of Education before ascending to being Minister of Education & Skills Development the next year. She then proceeded to be Minister of  Basic Education, Infrastructure & Housing Development as well as Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation.

During all these tenures in the highest offices in the land, the DISS was still terrorizing and making citizens live in fear. Didn't Dow know about the terror being waged by the agency during all those years? Or she just did not care because they were not bothering her? 

I find it convenient and too much of a coincidence that the same week that Dow decides to grow a conscience and finally call out the DISS happens to be the same week that a local newspaper came out with a story that she is under investigation by the DCEC for numerous corruption cases, including one alleging that she diverted UB foreign students to her sister's accommodation facilities instead of housing them in the university campus when she was still Minister of Education & Skills Development. In her SONA submission, Dow said, and I quote, "The DCEC must assert its authority and stop allowing itself to be undermined and bullied by the DIS", a very convenient utterance considering that she is under investigation by the DCEC herself. 

Of course, this is not to say that Dow's SONA response was not brilliant and valid. It was. But it was not anything new. Citizens and some members of the opposition have been having and making the same complaints about the DIS that she uttered last week for years. So her being suddenly heralded as this martyr of what is right comes as a surprise to me. The government she has been a part of since 2014 created this very monster that she only now acknowledges is indeed a monster. Her silence and obliviousness make her complicit in what the DISS has become over the years.

Talking about the Nazi Germans in a poem called "First They Came", Martin Niemöller writes that:

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.

When the DISS was busy terrorizing everyone else for all these years, Dow did not find it necessary to call it out because it had nothing to do with her. She was too busy enjoying the privileges of being in the highest public offices in the country and now that the monster has turned around and is now chasing her too, she finally sees it for what it is.

There is no denying the brilliance of Unity Dow. She is one of the most amazing legal minds that this country has ever and will ever produce. Her victory in the 1990 Unity Dow vs Attorney General case ended gender discrimination in the country's nationality laws. This victory set precedence for other African countries to also change these discriminative laws. As the presiding judge in the country's high court, her ruling in the Roy Sesana & Others vs the Government of Botswana case prohibited the government from kicking Basarwa out of the CKGR and as legal counsel for LEGAGBIBO, she helped the organization be allowed to register with the Department of Civil and National Registration.

This brilliant track record, however, does not and should not absolve her from the fact that she could have done or said something about the detrimental DISS way sooner when she had the power to invoke change. The fact that she chose to speak only when she was facing the agency's wrath herself paints a picture of not an individual who, like almost all politicians, believes in standing up for what's right only when it's convenient for her.

My hope is that Dow's SONA submission marks the beginning of her having a conscience about many other social issues that are a result of the incompetence of the government she has served for almost a decade. My hope is that after her case with the DCEC disappears into thin air like most of them do, she will continue standing up for what's right and not go back to being oblivious to the cries of her fellow countrymen and women. After all, they could do with her brilliant mind in the fight against this tyrannical monster of a government.