Business as usual, says new Botswana president

The new president of Botswana, one of Africa’s wealthiest countries, pledged on Tuesday that there would be no radical change in policy as he took the oath of office at a ceremony in Gaborone.

”Change of leadership does not mean radical changes in the way we have been setting out our objectives as agreed upon by the ruling party and government for this nation,” Seretse Khama Ian Khama said in his inauguration speech.

”In the course of the incoming administration you may detect a change in style and special emphasis on a number of issues. This should not cause any alarm or uncertainty.”

A former army chief whose father was the country’s first post-independence president, Khama promised to uphold democracy for which his country has been known since independence.

”I am a democrat. I have always believed in democratic ideals and joined the military to defend this democracy,” said Khama.

”Only democracy guarantees human rights, the rule of law, accountability and basic freedoms that we have enjoyed over the years.”

Khama (55) replaces Festus Mogae, who was president of diamond-rich Southern African nation for the last decade.

The former lieutenant general has come in for criticism for a somewhat autocratic leadership style that contrasts with the more approachable Mogae.

On taking office, he listed the challenges facing his government as employment creation, poverty alleviation, health, housing, fighting crime and environmental pollution.

He warned that his government would phase out what he called ”excessive or counter-productive bureaucracy” and encourage accountability and hard work.

Khama took the oath of office before Botswana’s chief justice, Julian Nganunu, at a ceremony in the country’s Parliament.

Khama, who spent his early childhood in England while his parents were in exile, first entered Parliament in July 1998.

After joining the Cabinet as the minister of presidential affairs and public administration, he went on to become vice-president and be elected chairperson of the Democratic Party which has dominated power since independence in 1966.

Mogae, who was present at the ceremony, attended by businessmen, company executives, senior government officials and foreign diplomats, did not make any speech. – Sapa-AFP

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