by Jeppe Damberg, UWCM
April 2nd, 2018
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has been in office since 1986. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame recently won a third term, after the two-term limit was ditched. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe hung on for nearly four decades until last year when the military forced him out. All claimed that their citizens would not let them leave office. But Ian Khama, Waterford Kamhlaba alumnus, chose to stand out in his final act as president of Botswana: by stepping down in due time.
Botswana, a nation of 2.2 million people, is the longest-running multiparty democracy on a continent whose leaders often cling to power into their 80s or 90s and rarely go without a fight. But Khama, 65, insisted on leaving office on Saturday in respect of Botswana’s term limit of a maximum of two terms for any president. His departure, which followed a decade of stable and largely uncontroversial rule, reflects a message he has often repeated: Africa needs democracy. Indeed, The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, set up by the Sudanese British billionaire to measure and reward good governance in Africa, ranks Botswana the third most democratic country in Africa, behind Mauritius and the Seychelles.
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]Khama is also known for frequently criticising his authoritarian African counterparts, breaking the continent’s unspoken rule that you never publicly urge another president to quit, no matter how much violence there is or how many rigged elections.
Khama also stood up for the International Criminal Court and its efforts to prosecute other African leaders accused of crimes against humanity. Notably, he called on other African nations to enforce the court’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir and to stand with the Sudanese people against his oppressive rule.
He hasn’t been afraid to criticise bigger powers either, recently he accused President Donald Trump of encouraging wildlife poaching by overturning the ban on the import of hunting trophies to the US. He told the BBC he was not just concerned about wildlife, but Trump’s “attitude towards the whole planet.”
But despite Botswana and the President’s successes, Khama seems to care more for the facts than flattery. When an online hoax news story circulated that Khama had been named “World’s Best President” in 2016, his office was quick to shoot down the story. It is not, however, that Khama has no critics. His biggest blind spot as president was the treatment of the indigenous population, the Kalahari Bushmen, also known as the Basarwa or San people, who’s reserves he failed to protect arguing that allowing them to live a “backward” way of life in the park jeopardised their children’s chances of gaining an education and joining the mainstream.
Now, Khama leaves the task of making the country less dependent on diamond industry and focusing on reducing high youth employment to Masisi. Though these are challenging tasks, Khama managed to steer Botswana through difficult economic times while criticising authoritarian regimes on the continent during his 10 year tenure , and now, as he steps down, takes a stride to preserve democratic traditions of his nation. As a Waterford Kamhlaba alumnus his leadership and integrity stand to be admired.
Jeppe Damberg was a student at United World College Maastricht 2016-2018. He founded the Flying Dutchman in 2017.