Sunday 22 October 2017

Botswana ex-president turned peacemaker Masire dies

Botswana ex-president turned peacemaker Masire dies
(AFP 06/24/17)

Sir Ketumile Masire, Botswana's second post-independence leader who is largely credited with being the architect of the country's famed stability, has died, an aide said Friday. He was 91.

One of Africa's most respected elder statesmen, he was known for leading regional peace efforts in Mozambique, Kenya and Lesotho.

In recent years, he was heavily involved in efforts to bring peace to Mozambique, which descended into violence in 2013, pitting Renamo rebels against the government.

Masire passed away in a hospital in Botswana's capital Gaborone late on Thursday, according to his senior private secretary Fraser Tlhoiwe.

"He died peacefully at Bokamoso private hospital surrounded by his family at 10:10 pm on 22 June 2017," Tlhoiwe said in a statement.

Masire had been hospitalised for surgery on June 16, his family said. Despite being admitted to intensive care, he was thought to be in stable condition.

President Ian Khama has declared three days of national mourning for the late leader, ahead of his burial on Thursday in Kanye, southwest of Gaborone.

"In remembrance of Sir Ketumile, we shall as of today, begin a three-day period of mourning... during which flags shall fly at half mast as they will also do on the day of the funeral," he said in a statement.

- Peacemaker -

Masire took office in 1980 following the death of president Seretse Khama, and led the country until voluntarily stepping down 1998, having overseen a period of unprecedented economic growth.

He is largely credited with being responsible for Botswana's longtime stability.

As well as mediating to end violence in Mozambique, Masire also helped to resolve political crises in Kenya and Lesotho after leaving office.

He also chaired an International Panel of Eminent Personalities investigating the circumstances of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

One of Africa's most stable countries, Botswana is a republic with Masire's Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP) -- now the Botswana Democratic Party -- holding power since independence in 1966.

Over that period, Botswana has enjoyed uninterrupted civilian rule.

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