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Botswana marks 56th anniversary of independence without traditional pomp, rally

Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi (C, Front) inspects a guard of honor during the Independence Day celebration in Gaborone, Botswana, on Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo by Tshekiso Tebalo/Xinhua)

Botswana on Friday celebrated the 56th anniversary of its independence.

GABORONE, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Botswana on Friday celebrated the 56th anniversary of its independence, but without the traditional pomp and nationwide rallies because of the grim events of COVID-19 that are still fresh in many people's minds.

In an address on the occasion of the 56th Anniversary of Botswana Independence Day in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said despite the heavy weight of the challenges that for most parts of the last two years the restricted movement of people, there are still some things worth celebrating.

Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi waves to the crowd during the Independence Day celebration in Gaborone, Botswana, on Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo by Tshekiso Tebalo/Xinhua)

Masisi told a handful of the audience that thronged the country's National Stadium that the fanfare and jubilation that accompanied the marking of Botswana's National Day in the past has this time been replaced by the grim events that are still fresh in the memories of many.

"Who would ever forget, especially the perilous months of July to September 2021 - when we lost many of our fellow citizens to the COVID-19 pandemic," rhetorically asked Masisi.

He said many families are hurting, as a result of losing a loved one or close relative, a friend or neighbor due to COVID-19.

Dancers take part in the Independence Day celebration in Gaborone, Botswana, on Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo by Tshekiso Tebalo/Xinhua)

By far, Masisi said a greater number, especially women, those in the hospitality industry and the youth who are dominating the service sector, were hit the hardest economically by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the necessary measures deployed to mitigate its impact were not helped by the global energy crisis that followed the immediate outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, he said.

"The resultant rising cost of living was experienced in many households just as the promise of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine was starting to pay dividends," said Masisi.

Botswana has so far reported 326,286 COVID-19 cases, with 2,781 deaths.

Figures from the Ministry of Health indicated that more than 70 percent of the southern African country's population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since the vaccination campaign began in March 2021. While 200,000 of those between the ages of 12 and 17 have received at least their first dose, 35,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received their first dose.