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Botswana Modern History

The former British protectorate of Bechuanaland became the independent Botswana in September 1966. It took place in orderly form, without violence or major political conflicts. Seretse Khama, who was prime minister of self-government, became the country's first president. His party Botswana's Democratic Party (BDP) has maintained its grip on power ever since and won all elections. Shortly after independence, diamonds were found in Botswana, and the formerly very poor country has experienced a major economic upswing.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Botswana. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Unlike in other countries in the region, no radical or Marxist guerrilla group seized power without an elite of young, conservative, Christian-educated and well-educated men. The BDP gave the country a parliamentary system, encouraged foreign investment and guaranteed white big farmers that they would be able to retain their holdings. President Khama adopted a neutral attitude towards South Africa but was outspoken against the apartheid system.

He also significantly cuts the power of the chiefs, including by transferring their traditional right to distribute land to district councils. This created conflicts with the chiefs. One of them founded the opposition party Botswana's National Front (BNF) in 1969.

Contemporary History of BotswanaDiamonds bring wealth

By independence, Botswana was one of the world's poorest countries. There was only half a mile paved road and three high schools. The country was heavily dependent on foreign aid and money that Botswana guest workers sent home from South Africa.

Rich diamond deposits were discovered in 1967. In the early 1970s, a period of economic growth began, when foreign companies began to extract diamonds, copper and nickel. During the 1970s, commercial livestock management also grew sharply. Botswana's economy had one of the highest growth rates in the world during the 1980s, but at the same time the population grew sharply and unemployment remained high.

When Khama died in 1980, Vice President Quett Ketumile Masire became president. Under him, the BDP maintained its firm grip on power. The party won the parliamentary elections in 1984 and 1989 by a large majority. Even in the 1994 elections, BDP won, although dissatisfaction with corruption scandals and unemployment gave BNF a huge push forward.

After 18 years as president, Masire resigned in 1998. He was succeeded by Vice President Festus Mogae. As new Vice President, this army chief appointed Ian Khama, son of the country's first president.

Internal division within BDP

In the 1999 and 2004 parliamentary elections, BDP won by a good margin. The National Assembly continued to appoint Mogae and Khama as president and vice president. But in April 2008, when 18 months remained for the next election, Mogae resigned and handed over the board to Khama. This appointed Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe as its Vice President.

The global financial crisis hit hard on Botswana's export-dependent economy and temporarily closed the diamond mines in 2009 (see also Finance).

In October 2009, BDP again won, despite serious internal divisions. The party received just over 53 percent of the vote. Due to the design of the electoral system, with majority voting in one-man constituencies, it provided over three-quarters of the seats in the National Assembly.

labor Conflict

Ian Khama was elected, as expected, as president of the National Assembly. But the divide in the BDP remained strong, and in the spring of 2010 several leading BDP politicians jumped off and formed a new party: the Botswana Democracy Movement (BMD). As party leader, BMD appointed the former BDP secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi. After the dismissal of the MPs for the new party, BMD was equally strong with BNF. However, the party was criticized for being distinguished mainly by fierce outcomes against President Khama and less by presenting its own political line.

Botswana was shaken in 2011 by a serious labor market conflict. Nearly 100,000 public servants went on strike for two months, demanding higher salaries. The conflict led to clashes, closed schools and restrictions in health care (see Labor market). The BDP accused the opposition of encouraging the strike in order to try to trigger a popular uprising similar to those that shook North Africa at the same time.

In 2012, several leading opposition parties formed an election alliance, the Collection for Democratic Change (UDC), in an attempt to challenge the BDP in the 2014 elections. There were suspicions of a political murder, although it was an accident according to the police investigation.

 
 

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