There is a biographical article about Botswana’s new president in Mmegi, At long last Khama will face his son(Mogae Legacy). It says of Khama:

The ‘Khama Agenda’ consists of three major parts: to decimate his enemies within the party and consolidate his power, to replicate the same on a national level and ultimately leave a legacy worthy of the expectation that surrounded his ascendance to the national stage.
. . .
Ian Khama’s (presidency will be) a much more authoritarian, paranoia-riddled and anti-democratic era.

Khama ascended to the presidency by means of Botswana’s practice of automatic succession. He was Vice President, President Mogae retired, and Khama became president. He has never run for office, and never won a democratic election.

The Mmegi article says of Khama:

“He has done on and off training in very challenging areas of the military. He has had some training with almost all the major intelligence organizations. The BDF, at least at the intelligence level is much closer to the Americans and Israelis so Ian would have done a number of programs in the intelligence arms of those countries” explains the source.

Military men love loyalists and Khama has surrounded himself with loyalists . . .

A Botswana Directorate of Intelligence and Security was recently legislated, and is largely seen as the work of Ian Khama.

However critics . . . noted that it gave too much power to the president and everyone else appointed by the president, the Minister, the Commanders of BDF and Commissioner of Police, and yet possessed no oversight provision.

Also according to the article, Khama is very much obsessed with intelligence, and wants to know what is going on with everyone everywhere. It is apparent he has already used intelligence gathering to help him consolidate his power within the party, and also the nation.

At the same time BDF officers started cropping up in senior positions in the public service. There has been more overt appointments like Isaac Kgosi’s appointment as Senior private Secretary to the Vice President. Part of the core Khama contingent that Khama brought from the BDF Kgosi occupies a special position in Khama’s books.

“At the government enclave, word has it that Kgosi is in reality more powerful even than the PSP himself. As the man who has access to the nerve centre of government, he has much more power than officials care to admit. To the public and everybody, he is the only bridge to the Vice President – the man seen by cynics as the de facto president” wrote Mmegi.

Kgosi is said to be poised to become the Director of that important Directorate of Security and Intelligence.

“Khama is a man who likes to follow everything to its last detail, and that’s why he likes Intelligence. He keeps records of everything that he thinks is important. He has a theory that says, ‘intelligence everywhere’, in other words, if the BCP has a central committee meeting somewhere in Shakawe, if we do not have an officer there we better have an informant there” says an inside source.

Khama is a military man who likes military toys and technology. He values secrecy, “intelligence”, and unquestioning loyalty.

Another Mmegi article, says of Khama:

Khama was a soldier from his teenage years. His major education came from the army. And his history in the party shows a man orientated in the military approach to things. In the army, there is discipline and order that is followed by all. This is the language that Khama understands.
. . .
Khama is a man with a burden. His burden is the expectations surrounding him. For that reason Khama’s failures, when they do occur, stand to be spectacular. That may be an incentive for the opposition too. By choosing to concentrate on opposition-held constituencies Khama is making an assumption that the opposition is not a strong challenger in BDP-held constituencies. This could prove disastrous.

However, a person obsessed with gathering “intelligence”, the means to gather that “intelligence”, free of oversight, and willing to use it for political purposes, can be a formidable anti democratic force.

Khama is a military man and speaks the military language. He has obviously had extensive contact with US military, as well as being trained in the UK. He will be very comfortable with the military leadership running AFRICOM, which will find his friendship, his country, and its strategic resources to be a valuable ally.

Khama is credited as the man behind Thebephatshwa air base. The exact connection between US activities and Thebephatshwa are unclear, but the articles I’ve cited indicate that Khama’s preference for secrecy is part of the reason for that lack of clarity.

With South Africa so clearly opposed to AFRICOM, gradually working towards making Thebephatshwa into a regional hq for US interests should be a very attractive possibility for the military leadership of AFRICOM.

There is nothing in any of this that will help foster democracy. Military language is not the language of democracy. Military structure and heirarchy is not democratic. A democratic government needs to listen to a broad spectrum of society, not just the most loyal and unquestioning followers. If Botswana is going to preserve democracy there will need to be effective opposition to Khama’s initiatives along the way. And Khama shows no ability to compromise, or willingness to yield or lose.

Botswana is on an electrical power tightrope. If the country is very lucky, it may move forward relatively unscathed. But if the power starts going out, business suffers, safety suffers, and the people become unhappy. That would be a major test for Botswana’s democracy.

If there is a major democratic upheaval in Botswana, who will AFRICOM support and enable? Will it be a military colleague, or a democratic process it is not designed to encourage or advantage?

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