|July 15, 2007
President Mogae to resign in 2007
Botswana's President Festus Mogae has announced that he is to stand down next year after a decade at the helm of the diamond-rich southern African nation. The 67-year-old told members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) he would serve another nine months as head of state and then hand over to Vice President Ian Khama ahead of a general election in October 2009. "I look forward in the next nine months to retirement and rest. I do so in the conviction, that I did my best; like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way and like Tony Blair, I did what I thought was right. I do so with a sense of immense, satisfaction as I look back at what we have achieved together ... I am further comforted by the belief that I have led a good party, with the assistance of good men and women, who are positioned to take it to greater heights," he told delegates at the 32nd Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) National Congress in Molepolole.
Mogae, the son of cattle farmers who was educated at Oxford University, came to power in 1998 in succession to Ketumile Masire and was re-elected after his party triumphed over a divided opposition at the elections in October 2004.
The president is elected by members of the National Assembly and the constitution precludes presidents from serving more than two terms. A former senior director for Africa at the International Monetary Fund, Mogae spurred privatisation and made the fight against HIV/Aids one of the top priorities of his administration, warning once that Botswanans faced "extinction" from HIV. Under his leadership, the BDP government has considered it necessary to provide subsidised and preferential access to credit for citizens in the hope of establishing a vibrant entrepreneurial class. While commentators believe the BDP's hold on office will continue for the foreseeable future, Festus warned it was important the BDP enjoyed the support of a majority of the people rather than just in parliament. "A scenario where we win the majority of seats but fail to command a comfortable majority in the popular vote is not a good one," he said in his speech.