Gaborone, Botswana | AFP | Botswana prepared to inaugurate Mokgweetsi Masisi as president on Sunday in a ceremony designed to highlight a smooth handover of power in one of Africa’s most stable countries.
Ian Khama, the son of Botswana’s first post-independence leader, officially stepped down as president on Saturday after serving the constitutional maximum of 10 years in office.
His vice president, Masisi, will take over a county widely seen as a success story — benefitting from good governance and lucrative income from its diamond, beef and tourism sectors.
It is rated as the least corrupt country in Africa by Transparency International, but has recently struggled with rising unemployment and tensions over the uneven sharing of its vast diamond wealth.
Khama finished a national farewell tour this week, bidding a months-long goodbye to the country’s population of 2.2 million.
The government published photographs of Masisi attending Saturday’s dress rehearsal for the inauguration.
The televised event will be held at parliament buildings in the capital Gaborone, in front of an audience of 1,200 people, with proceedings beginning at 6:00 am (0400 GMT).
Masisi, 55, is a close ally of Khama and a veteran of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
He is a US-educated former teacher, UNICEF employee and education minister, whose father was also a cabinet minister.
Khama earned a record for straight talking, often criticising leaders including US President Donald Trump and — unlike many in the region — neighbouring Zimbabwe’s then-president Robert Mugabe as well as Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila.
“Internationally, he positioned himself as a moral leader,” Matteo Vidiri, a BMI Research analyst, told AFP.
“(But) a slowing economy and increasing public discontent has damaged the narrative of Botswana’s ‘special character’, of a country being able to escape the ‘resource curse’.”
Khama, 65, led the BDP to landslide victories in two elections, although the party won less than 50 percent of the vote for the first time in 2014.
Four opposition parties have said they could unite for the 2019 election to try to unseat the ruling party, which has held power since independence in 1966.
At a farewell event in his home village last week, Khama was showered with gifts including a 4×4 truck, 143 cows, hundreds of chickens, more than 415,000 pula ($44,000, 35,000 euro) and a fully-equipped luxury caravan.