Botswana leader, predecessor feud persists after Trump remarks

Sunday December 30 2018

Khama, Mokgweetsi Masisi and his wife Neo

Botswana's then President Seretse Ian Khama (L) speaks next to his vice-president Mokgweetsi Masisi and his wife Neo during a rally in his village Serowe on March 27, 2018. PHOTO | MONIRUL BHUIYAN | AFP 

More by this Author


A feud between Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama has erupted afresh after the ex-leader condemned US President Donald Trump as "arrogant and racist".

Mr Masisi, who was hand-picked by Mr Khama, took power in April when Mr Khama stepped aside after serving the maximum 10 years in office.


But the two men have since fallen out in a public spat that threatens to undermine Botswana's carefully-crafted reputation for stable government.

Mr Masisi last month used his first state-of-the-nation address to openly attack his predecessor, saying the "transition from the previous administration has not been as smooth as expected".

Then, addressing villagers last week during a meeting in his capacity as a traditional chief in his rural home of Serowe, Mr Khama described President Trump as "arrogant and racist".

The foreign ministry issued a statement on Saturday dissociating itself from the remarks.

"These disparaging remarks... do not in any way represent the position of the government of Botswana," said the ministry.

It said Mr Khama is entitled to his personal views, "but the ministry is concerned that the usage of the kgotla (traditional) meeting by the former president to castigate a president of another country may be misconstrued as espousing an official position of the government".


On Sunday, Mr Khama said he would not give up criticising poor governance and violation of democratic principles and human rights by other countries.

"The ministry is free to abandon those principles and ignore Donald Trump's present and past disrespectful tendencies which he clearly displayed... sometime ago, in the way he referred to countries in Africa," he said in a statement.

Earlier this year Trump reportedly referred to African nations as "shithole countries".

"I am proud that when I was president, Botswana was one of those that criticised him over those insulting and racist remarks," said Mr Khama.

Mr Trump's "attitude is motivated by what I have said before and I repeat again, his arrogance, intolerance, extravagance, and his allergy to telling the truth".


The latest spat has again laid bare the frosty relations between Mr Khama, 65 and Mr Masisi, 57.

The former president has reportedly been enraged by Mr Masisi's refusal to let him use government planes, while state media have been instructed not to feature Mr Khama.

The two men have also battled over the former boss of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Isaac Kgosi, who was sacked by Mr Masisi for insubordination.

Mr Khama has sought to employ Mr Kgosi as his private secretary but has been blocked by Mr Masisi.