Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 13:18 UK
Botswana: Africa's shining jewel?

As Seretse Khama Ian Khama takes over from Festus Mogae as Botswana's president, BBC Focus on Africa magazine asks the Mr Mogae about his decade in charge.

Festus Mogae
Festus Mogae steps down at the end of March
In his invitation, the editor of Focus On Africa urged me to briefly address the reasons for Botswana's relative success in achieving sustained economic growth and political stability.

This is a big question that has been debated at length from many perspectives.

Professional experts, along with ordinary individuals, have long expressed critical and often contradictory views.

Most observers, however, acknowledge the fact that Botswana's consistent progress since independence in 1966 has occurred in the context of an uninterrupted record of multi-party democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.

At the centre of this democratic dispensation is our constitution which has - with the occasional amendment - been the law of the land for over four decades.

It has thus remained as the ultimate guarantor of the civil liberties and fundamental freedoms of all citizens.

Ruler by the people

I have stepped down as head of the executive, in accordance with the document's provision that the tenure of any president be limited to a total of ten years.

I believe that Botswana's democratic values are rooted in our society's long-standing tradition of decision-making through public consultation.

My optimism is not simply grounded in sentiment
Since time immemorial local rulers have consulted their people in open for a known as kgotla, where participants are free to express their opinions without interference.

Our traditional democratic values are thus articulated in the venerable saying, "A ruler is a ruler by the people."

Such accountability has assured political stability, which we have always recognised as a prerequisite for sustained economic and social progress.

As another saying goes, "Prosperity is the child of peace."

Aids-free generation

In this respect I am comforted by the fact that last year the World Bank Institute once more rated Botswana as being among the top ten per cent of nations in the world in terms of political stability.

If this all sounds a bit simple, perhaps it is because it is the simple truth.

Village in Botswana
Botswana has enjoyed comparative stability for the region
Nowadays it has become conventional wisdom to assert a link between good governance - in a liberal-democratic context - and sustainable development; but I can remember a time not long ago when Botswana stood alone in the region as a multi-party democracy at peace with itself.

Today, I am happy to have left high office still excited about my fellow citizen's prospects of meeting the challenges before them.

My optimism is not simply grounded in sentiment. It rests on the sure knowledge that the people of Botswana are not only more prosperous than in the past, but perhaps more importantly much more educated and informed.

There are hopeful signs that our youth are leading the way in meeting our greatest challenge - the reduction of HIV prevalence.

This, combined with the success of other interventions - in particular the reduction in HIV transmission from infected mothers to their children from about 40 per cent to four per cent - gives me hope that we shall reach our goal of an Aids-free generation.

Law enrages Botswana bar owners
16 Feb 06 |  Africa
Country profile: Botswana
29 Mar 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Botswana
29 Mar 08 |  Country profiles

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific