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Botswana – Masire Obituary

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The erstwhile premier is credited with bringing stability to the southern African nation. 

President of Botswana between 1980-1998, Katumile Masire was a cattle herder turned politician who led the country through turbulent economic, social and political times. He was heralded by many as a model leader on the continent.

In 1966 when Botswana – then Bechuanaland – became independent from the UK, it had just two miles of paved roads and a single public secondary school. Diamond discoveries changed this and Masire and his predecessor Seretse Khama used revenues to fund education, healthcare and infrastructure.

In 1989, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership, awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation and famine.

Masire also managed to negotiate a delicate relationship with neighbouring South Africa, a major economic partner but the Botswanan government was opposed to apartheid policies. “He had to walk a line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs.

Botswana is in many respects remarkable when compared to other African nations, with a relatively robust democracy and limited, noticeable corruption. This has meant the tourism industry has bloomed, particularly wildlife tourism.

Ketumile-Masire
Masire – Premium Times. 

Masire was born in Kanye in southern Botswana near the South African border in 1925. He was a herder before enrolling in a primary school at 13. After his parents died when he was in his early twenties, he became e a teacher to support his siblings.

He also worked as a journalist, served on tribal and regional councils, and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), now the dominant political party in the country.

After leaving office, he advised other African leaders and chaired the International Panel of Eminent Personalities that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in DR Congo and helped to end Mozambique’s civil war.

Masire stepped down in 1998 after overseeing a lengthy period of economic growth, largely oriented around effective management of diamond wealth. In retirement, Masire established the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation, which aims to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health across the region.

He died on June 22nd 2017 aged 91.

(the Independent 27/6; BBC News 23/7)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

BOTSWANA: Spat Over Vice President
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 11, Pp. 20344A–20344C

BOTSWANA: Khama Wins
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 10, Pp. 20308C–20309B

Botswana: Inquiry into Opposition Leader’s Death
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 8, Pp. 20242B

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