Ian Khama

Serêtsê Khama Ian Khama[1] (born 27 February 1953)[2] is a Motswana politician and former military officer who served as the fourth President of the Republic of Botswana from 1 April 2008 to 1 April 2018. After serving as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, he entered politics and served as Vice-President of Botswana from 1998 to 2008, then succeeded Festus Mogae as President on 1 April 2008. He won a full term in the 2009 election and was re-elected in October 2014.

Ian Khama
4th President of Botswana
In office
1 April 2008  1 April 2018
Vice PresidentMompati Merafhe
Ponatshego Kedikilwe
Mokgweetsi Masisi
Preceded byFestus Mogae
Succeeded byMokgweetsi Masisi
5th Vice President of Botswana
In office
13 July 1998  1 April 2008
PresidentFestus Mogae
Preceded byFestus Mogae
Succeeded byMompati Sebogodi Merafhe
Personal details
Ian Seretse Khama

(1953-02-27) 27 February 1953
Chertsey, England, UK
Political partyBotswana Patriotic Front (since 2018)
Other political
Botswana Democratic Party (until 2018)
ParentsSeretse Khama (father)
Ruth Williams (mother)
Alma materRoyal Military Academy Sandhurst
Military service
Allegiance Botswana
Years of service1977–1998
RankLieutenant General
CommandsBotswana Defence Force

Early life

Ian Khama is the second child of Sir Seretse Khama (1 July 1921 – 13 July 1980), who was the country's foremost independence leader and President from 1966 to 1980, and Lady Khama. He was born in Chertsey, Surrey, during the period in which his father was exiled to the United Kingdom due to the opposition by the colonial government and the emergent apartheid regime in South Africa to his marriage to a white woman.

He is also the grandson of Sekgoma II (1869–1925), who was the paramount chief of the Bamangwato people, and the great-grandson of Khama III (1837–1923), their king; and the great-great grandson of Kgosikgolo Sekgoma I, the Chief of the Bamangwato people (1815–1885). The name "Seretse" means “the clay that binds together”, and was given to his father to celebrate the recent reconciliation of his father and grandfather; this reconciliation assured Seretse Khama's ascension to the throne when his aged father died in 1925. Seretse Khama Ian Khama is named after his father to continue this historical legacy. He is also known simply as Ian Khama to differentiate between himself and his father. Tshekedi Khama II, Ian Khama's brother, was named after their great uncle, Tshekedi Khama who was the regent and guardian for Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana.

Education and training

Ian Khama is an alumnus of Waterford Kamhlaba, a United World College in Mbabane, Swaziland.[3] He is a qualified pilot and attended Royal Military Academy Sandhurst,[4] where the British Army trains its officers.

Military career

In April 1977, Khama was appointed as a brigadier general at age 24 during Sir Seretse Khama's Presidency, hence Deputy Commander to late former Vice President Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe, later serving as BDF Commander from 1989 until becoming Vice President in 1998.

Political career

Khama, serving as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, announced on 16 December 1997 that he would retire from his command on 31 March 1998. Because this was the same date as the planned retirement of President Quett Masire, it fueled political speculation about Khama.[5] On 1 April 1998, when Vice-President Festus Mogae succeeded Masire as President, Khama was appointed as the new Vice-President. However, Khama did not hold a seat in the National Assembly, and so could not immediately take office as Vice-President. In early July 1998 he overwhelmingly won a by-election in Serowe North, receiving 2,986 votes against 86 votes for the candidate of the opposition Botswana National Front.[6] On 13 July, he took his seat in the National Assembly and was sworn in as Vice-President.[7] By these actions, he effectively renounced his hitherto unclaimed hereditary chieftaincy, as the constitutional monarchs of modern Botswana are legally barred from actively taking part in party politics. Be this as it may, many traditional Bamangwato continue to recognize him as their chief.

Following the victory of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the general election of October 1999, Khama remained Vice-President as well as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.[8][9] Mogae granted Khama a one-year leave later in the year,[10][11] a decision that the opposition Botswana Congress Party[10] and the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations sharply criticized. Khama's leave became effective on 1 January 2000.[11] He returned to his duties as Vice-President on 1 September 2000, although he was replaced as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration at that time.[12]

Khama, already a member of the BDP Central Committee,[13] was elected as Chairman of the BDP on 22 July 2003 at a party congress; he defeated the previous Chairman, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, receiving 512 votes against 219 for Kedikilwe.[14][15] Khama had been backed for the post by President Mogae,[13][16] and the outcome was viewed as crucial, paving the way for Khama to eventually succeed Mogae as President.[13][14]

Mogae stepped down, as he had long said he would do,[17] on 1 April 2008; Khama succeeded him as President. At his swearing-in ceremony in Gaborone, Khama said that there would be continuity in policy and no "radical changes", although he said that "a change in style and special emphasis on a number of issues" might be evident, and he emphasized his commitment to democracy.[18] He immediately undertook a major cabinet reshuffle, and he appointed Mompati Merafhe, who had been Foreign Minister, as the new Vice-President.[19]

Upon becoming President, Khama left his post as Chairman of the BDP; Daniel Kwelagobe was chosen to replace him.[20]

Khama is a member of the Board of Directors of the US-based organization Conservation International, which is also active in Botswana. In 2007, Khama appeared on British television in the BBC's Top Gear motoring programme and he met the presenters as they prepared to cross the Makgadikgadi Pan in northern Botswana by car.[21] In 2009, Khama appeared on CNN's African Voices which painted a positive picture of the outgoing and physically fit Khama who is leading a new generation of African leaders.


On 1 April 2018, Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn in as the 5th President of Botswana, succeeding Ian Khama and his full ten years of presidency. After several disagreements with Masisi, he decided to leave the BDP and join the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), a newly formed breakaway from the BDP. He campaigned for the BPF, which won three seats in the 2019 general elections in the Serowe area.

Interim term

Even though Ian Khama was not elected to the presidency, which some political commentators such as Kenneth Good [22] see as a flaw in the electoral system in Botswana, he governed as if he was elected and proceeded to make some fundamental changes to the way that Botswana was governed during his "interim term". President Khama first articulated his desire to impose a 70% alcohol levy, meant to combat the scourge of excessive drinking in Botswana which had become a real problem, especially amongst the youth. Although the idea was laudable, the practical effect of such a levy was soon seen to have a deleterious effect on the brewing industry, who resisted the imposition of such a levy, along with bars and other drinking establishments. The President shifted his policy to focus on prevention and education but later imposed a 30% levy after consulting with industry leaders.

The Media Practitioners Law has been criticized both inside and outside of government as inhibiting free speech. The bill's language seeks to encourage a more professional journalistic standard, but detractors counter that it leaves this standard in the hands of politicians.

Under Khama, the government has also established the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) with police powers, which is seen as the Botswana equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States. Although this type of organization is not new and is found in many countries, it has critics in Botswana who charge that there are very few domestic or transnational threats that the police and the military could not handle. Some have argued that the institution, headed by President Khama's close friend Issac Kgosi, could easily be manipulated and used against political enemies or others who criticize the President or his administration. There have been reports of extrajudicial killings in Botswana, linked by many to the DIS. One such high-profile killing was that of John Kalifatis, whose death resulted during the course of a robbery investigation, in which it was believed that Kalifatis was armed and dangerous.

Khama had some recognized successes during his interim term. He got international and regional kudos for his stance against the Zimbabwean government, particularly Robert Mugabe. He did so by recognizing the government unless and until it included members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) headed by Morgan Tsvangarai. Khama also condemned the action of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir in the region of Dafur and became a vocal critic of despotic governments in Africa along with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia.

On the economic front, Khama has been a vocal proponent of moving Botswana away from its over-reliance on diamonds and diversifying its economy, especially to the agriculture and tourism sector. Under his watch, the number of site-holders licensed to operate diamond polishing and cutting operations in Botswana has grown. ABN/AMRO, the Dutch-based diamond trading bank, has announced that it will be headquartering its African offices in Botswana .

Politically, Khama's interim term was dominated by internal squabbling in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which is now clearly divided into two major factions, the A-Team and the Barata Phati factions. The A-Team was led by President Khama, Jacob Nkate, the former Minister of Education, and the late former Vice President Mompati Merafhe. The Barata Phati faction was led by former BDP secretary general Daniel Kwelagobe, formerly the Chairman of the Party, the late Gomemelo Motswaledi, and also retired former Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who wish to bring about constitutional reform not only to the BDP but also to the country's constitution. In the run-up to the 2009 elections, Motswaledi, who gave up on his ambition to run for a seat in Serowe in order to make way for Ian Khama's brother, Tshekedi Khama II, was also excluded from representing Gaborone when he ran afoul of President Khama. After this incident, critics accused Khama of authoritarian tendencies, while others say that he was simply instilling discipline as part of his role as the head of the party. Motswaledi bowed out of the BDP brass to form another political party, BMD.Ian Khama preferred long titles such as being called Lieutenant General Dr as his title especially after being given an honorary doctorate by an asian university.

Honours and awards


Year Country Order
?  Botswana Presidential Order of Honour[23]
?  Botswana Founder Officer Medal[23]
?  Botswana Duty Code Order[23]
2015 Korea Distinguished Service Medal



  1. "President Khama has a new official name". Mmegi Online. February 11, 2016. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  2. "True to tradition, Khama is born to rule Botswana", Sapa-AFP (Pretoria News), 1 April 2008.
  3. ""Waterford Kamhlaba Background"". Archived from the original on April 14, 2012. Retrieved 2010-12-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. Gordon Bell "Botswana's leader to keep winning formula", Reuters (IOL), 30 March 2008.
  5. "Botswana: Army commander announces he will retire at end of March 1998", SAPA news agency (nl.newsbank.com), 18 December 1997.
  6. "Botswana: Ian Khama wins by-election and can therefore be vice-president", SAPA news agency (nl.newsbank.com), 6 July 1998.
  7. "Botswana: Ian Khama takes parliamentary seat, sworn in as vice-president", SAPA news agency (nl.newsbank.com), 13 July 1998.
  8. Ernest Chilisa, "Major shake-up after Botswana poll", Saturday Star (IOL), 22 October 1999.
  9. "Botswana: President Mogae appoints new cabinet", Radio Botswana (nl.newsbank.com), 21 October 1999.
  10. "Botswana: President Mogae faces court action", PANA news agency (nl.newsbank.com), 23 December 1999.
  11. "Botswana: Vice-president's year-long sabbatical leave criticized", PANA news agency (nl.newsbank.com), 3 January 2000.
  12. "Botswana: Vice-president "resumes duty"; cabinet reshuffle reported", Radio Botswana (nl.newsbank.com), 30 August 2000.
  13. "BOTSWANA: Feature  leadership contest may test stability", IRIN, 19 June 2003.
  14. "BOTSWANA: Khama win eases Mogae's concerns", IRIN, 23 July 2003.
  15. "Botswana: Vice-president wins ruling party chairmanship", Business Day, Johannesburg (nl.newsbank.com), 22 July 2003.
  16. "Botswana: President Mogae defends decision to back Khama for party chairmanship", Radio Botswana (nl.newsbank.com), 19 June 2003.
  17. "Botswana's Mogae set to retire", AFP (IOL), 15 July 2007.
  18. "New president calms nerves", AFP (IOL), 1 April 2008.
  19. "Khama fires five ministers", Mmegi Online, 2 April 2008.
  20. "DK is BDP chairman", BOPA, 8 April 2008.
  21. Top Gear: Botswana Special, Top Gear Series 10, episode 4, BBC, broadcast 4 November 2007.
  22. Good, Kenneth (2008). Diamonds, Dispossession and Democracy in Botswana. London: African Issues.
  23. "Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama". gov.bw. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
Political offices
Preceded by
Festus Mogae
Vice President of Botswana
Succeeded by
Mompati Merafhe
President of Botswana
Succeeded by
Mokgweetsi Masisi
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