Botswanan former president Ian Khama has accused his chosen successor of becoming an autocrat and threatening the country’s reputation as a beacon of stability in Africa.
Khama, last week quit the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in a culmination of a dramatic fall-out with President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who took office last year.
This decision was dictated by the “immature and arrogant” behaviour of the current government, the 66-year-old told AFP in a telephone interview.
Known for his outspokenness when he was in power, particularly against US President Donald Trump and Robert Mugabe, the strong man from Zimbabwe at the time, Ian Khama is now also direct towards his successor.
“The person I appointed to replace me was, as soon as he came to power, very autocratic, very intolerant, and this led to a decline in democracy,” he said.
Son of the first president of the country Seretse Khama, Ian Khama left office in April 2018 in accordance with the Constitution, which limits the reign of presidents to ten years.
He then handed over to his vice-president Mokgweetsi Masisi. But relations between the two men have since deteriorated.
The two have often clashed over policy differences.
The former president said he was surprised by the policies of his successor. “When he was my vice-president (…), he never showed off the problems we see now. (He has always been very intelligent, he has always supported the policies he is now unravelling,” he said.
Since taking power, Mokgweetsi Masisi has made decisions modifying several of his predecessor’s key policies, the most significant being the restoration of elephant hunting, suspended since 2014.
“For me, it is so sad and painful to see the work of all these years unravelled,” says Ian Khama.
Botswana, home to the world’s largest population of wild elephants, more than 135,000, made international headlines in May by lifting the ban on elephant hunting, provoking heated reactions.
For the government, this decision should make it possible to better control the elephant population that causes major damage in the fields.
“We had stability for many years. We had wildlife for many years. We have tried to play our part as a responsible member of the international community by encouraging democracy (…) All the hard work done is being called into question, it is unacceptable,” Khama said.
He also accused the new president of brutalizing dissenters. “State security organs attack opponents, harass them (…). We’ve never seen this in Botswana,” he claimed.
Neither Mokgweetsi Masisi nor the BDP publicly reacted to Ian Khama’s criticism.