Anniversary of Botswana’s Independence: focus on Albert de Schonen, First Ambassador of France to Botswana [fr]
Born in Paris on 27 November 1912, Baron Albert de Schonen was the son of the Cavalry officer and Olympic athlete in fencing and shooting during the 1900 Olympics, André de Schonen.
After graduating from the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques (later “Sciences-Po”), Albert de Schonen joined the Free France during the German occupation. He then became a member of the Jedburgh teams. Composed of French, British and American officers, those squads were parachuted on theatres of operation to train the Resistance fighters and establish contacts between the Resistance and the Allied High Command. Albert de Schonen took part in two of these very dangerous missions and distinguished himself with a heroic behaviour. After the war, he created the Association of Jedburh Veterans to assist families of officers killed in combat.
He started in 1945 a diplomatic career which brought him around Europe before being appointed Ambassador to Zambia in 1966.
On 2 February 1967, Albert de Schonen became the first Ambassador of France to Botswana (until 1970) while living in Lusaka and then Bangui from 1969. As there was no Ambassador Residence in Gaborone at that time, he had to stay at the hotel with his family when he was in the country.
The Ambassador had no official vehicle either in Botswana. That is why Albert de Schonen had to reach the State house on the luggage rack of a motorcycle to present his credentials to President Sir Seretse Khama!
The good relationships Albert de Schonen had with Batswana authorities as well as his excellent knowledge of Africa enabled a strong and harmonious development of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Albert de Schonen initiated numerous economic and cultural partnerships which are still carried on; this was then a challenge in a non-Francophone country, without any historical ties with our country.
Albert de Schonen ended his career as Ambassador in New-Zealand.
Also involved in French local politics, he was elected councillor in Eure-et-Loir, his hometown Département.
Albert de Schonen was 94 years-old when he died in 2007.
Awarded the Croix de guerre with palms and the Military Cross, he was also Commandeur of the Legion of Honour, Commandeur of the National Order of Merit and Commandeur of the Agricultural Merit.
It was not until 2001 that France had a resident ambassador to Botwana in Gaborone. Appointed in January 2013, Her Excellency Ms Anne de la Blache, the current Ambassador, is the 15th Ambassador of France to Botswana and the 4th resident Ambassador.