• peacekeeping
  • peacebuild
  • women
  • knowledge
  • peacemaking

Very Brave or Very Foolish? Memoirs of an African Democrat

alt Author Quett Ketumile Joni Masire
Editor Stephen R. Lewis, Jr.
Published by: Macmillan Botswana Publishing Co., 2006
ISBN: 10: 9991240489 13: 978-9991240480

Reviewed by Tor Sellstrom, Senior Advisor to ACCORD
In Conflict Trends Issue 2 of 2007

In a modest, true-to-type Botswana way, this significant insider account of an African success story quietly made its way onto the market in late 2006. It is a fascinating tale, narrated by former president Ketumile Masire and edited by Professor Stephen R. Lewis, Jr (1). As the title informs, the memoirs are of – not by – Masire, based on approximately 65 hours of recorded conversations with Lewis. In addition to students of contemporary Botswana’s domestic and foreign policies, the narrative is highly recommended to those concerned with issues of leadership (passim, but in particular pp. 83-102), political and economic governance (pp. 146-245) and conflict resolution in Africa (pp. 301-316).

While post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa has generally suffered from poor governance, recurrent violence, increased poverty and deepening marginalisation, it is also true that there are stable African countries that for decades have been governed under democratic multiparty dispensations and have become leaders in socio-economic performance. The island republic of Mauritius is one such example. More significant is the case of Botswana, established in 1966 in a neighbourhood of hostile, minority-ruled White regimes. It rapidly progressed from poverty to riches in a region which, between 1961 and 1990-1994, was engulfed in the southern African ‘Thirty Years’ War’ of national liberation. Thus situated, the title of Masire’s memoirs refers to the widespread scepticism noted ahead of Botswana’s independence, regarding its future prospects and its leaders’ space and ability to steer the territory towards true nationhood and progress.

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, Botswana registered the highest growth rates in the world. Boosted by the discovery of diamonds shortly after independence, the real annual average income growth per capita during these three decades amounted to no less than 8.2 percent. While diamonds as well as other mineral resources elsewhere in Africa have often been the source of looting, conflict and war, citizens of Botswana have enjoyed a stable climate of positive peace and surprisingly little graft. Over the years, Transparency International has regularly rated Botswana as having the lowest level of corruption on the African continent.

As minister of Finance and Development Planning (as well as vice president) from 1966, Ketumile Masire was the principal architect behind this exceptional development (2). From the founding of the Bechuanaland Democratic Party in 1962, he was a close partner of Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president. Following Khama’s death in 1980, Masire took over the presidency until his own retirement from official duties in 1998. As ex-president, however, he has continued to be actively involved in African affairs. In addition to his participation in the Global Coalition for Africa, Masire chaired the Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU) international panel to investigate the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which in 2000 produced the so-called ‘Masire Report’, entitled Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide. Above all, from the opening in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October 2001 until its conclusion in Sun City, South Africa in April 2003, Masire served as the chief facilitator of the Inter- Congolese Dialogue (ICD), laying the basis for a democratic solution to the protracted conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition to notes on his childhood, adolescence and retirement “before and after national politics”, Masire has divided his memoirs into three main parts, under the headings ‘Creating and Leading a Nation’, ‘Developing the Nation and Our People’ and ‘Dealing with Our Neighbours and Other States’. Rich in detail, but always to the point, the captivating narration – where dry facts and figures are interspersed with very personal comments, humorous anecdotes and, not least in the chapters devoted to international relations, frank character portraits of other political leaders – takes the reader on an educational journey through the stages of Botswana’s graduation from a poor, marginalized British protectorate to a modern multiparty democracy, classified by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country. The considerations behind the nation’s stable foundations of democracy, development, unity and self-reliance are thus explained by the chief architect himself. In this context, Masire notes that “[o]ur luck in Botswana has not only been in discovering diamonds, but also that we have discovered people” – a pregnant remark on governance on a continent where political leaders are more often attracted to material and lootable resources than to the development of human potential.

In hindsight there are, naturally, issues where Masire would have taken a different path. Botswana’s ravaging HIV/AIDS pandemic is one example. In words similar to those of his South African counterpart, former president Mandela, Masire notes that “our failure to deal with [the pandemic] in an effective way […] arose from judgmental errors”, adding that “it is perhaps my greatest regret” and that the pandemic “is now threatening to destroy so much of what we have accomplished, economically, socially and politically”. As Botswana’s economic growth tapers off and income disparities increase, HIV/AIDS is now taking a ghastly toll on this exceptional African success story (3), and proving a tremendous human security challenge that the country shares with its neighbours in southern Africa.

Endnotes

  1. Stephen R. Lewis, Jr. is President Emeritus and Professor of Economics at Carleton College, Minnesota, USA. He began a long association with Botswana in 1975, serving as economic consultant to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning – led by Masire – on a resident basis in 1977-78 and in 1980-82.
  2. For a critical assessment of what they characterise as Botswana’s “elitist democracy”, see Good, Kenneth and Taylor, Ian (2006) ‘Unpacking the ‘model’: Presidential succession in Botswana’ in Southall, Roger and Melber, Henning (eds) Legacies of Power, Uppsala, Sweden: The Nordic Africa Institute and Cape Town, South Africa: HSRC Press, pp. 51-72.
  3. Statistics understate the human impact of HIV/AIDS. In Europe, the greatest single demographic shock since the Black Death was experienced by France between 1913 and 1918, when the combined effects of the First World War and the 1918 influenza reduced life expectancy from 51 to 35 years – a fall of 16 years. This pales in comparison to Botswana where, according to the United Nations, life expectancy is projected to fall from 65 years in 1988 to 34 in 2008, a decrease of 31 years (UNDP (2005) Human Development Report 2005, New York: UNDP, pp. 26-27).

Buy Here

alt

alt

Latest News and Resources

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Prev Next

ACCORD at second African Think Tank summit

A delegation from ACCORD have attended the 2nd African Think Tank Summit, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 6 – 8 April. The event was attended by over 60 think tanks, with participants from 30 countries. The first Summit was...

10-04-2015 in General

ACCORD represented at World Alliance of Religions Peace Summit in Africa

'Vusa izizwe namhlanje!' (Wake up the nations today!) was the motto of the World Alliance of Religions Peace Summit in Africa at which the ACCORD was represented by Prof Jannie Malan, Senior Researcher and Managing Editor of the African Journal...

10-04-2015 in Knowledge Production

TfP/ACCORD support African Standby Capacity Integrated Human Resource and Database Training Course

The African Union Commission (AUC) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) have been developing a civilian standby roster since its conceptualisation in 2010. To date, significant progress has been made to improve the roster in order...

09-04-2015 in Peacekeeping

ACCORD discuss MoU with IGAD in support of peace and security in the region

ACCORD has hosted H.E. Ambassador Tewolde Gebremeskel, the Director of Peace and Security at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). H.E. Ambassador Gebremeskel represented IGAD's Executive Secretary, H.E. Ambassador Mahboub Maalim. The visit enabled discussions between the regional body (IGAD...

09-04-2015 in General

ACCORD attend 2015 TfP AGM in Olso

The Training for Peace in Africa (TfP) Programme at ACCORD (TfP/ACCORD) have participated in the TfP Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Oslo, Norway. The AGM's purpose was to highlight the TfP Programme's main achievements and developments in 2014, and present...

02-04-2015 in Peacekeeping

ACCORD publishes policy & practice brief on the eve of Nigeria's highly anticipated election

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) has published a Policy & Practice Brief (PPB) on the upcoming election in Nigeria. Co-authored by J. Shola Omotola, a Senior Lecturer in political science and public administration at Redeemer's...

27-03-2015 in Knowledge Production

ACCORD host launch of Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu biography

On 24th March 2014 ACCORD hosted the launch of Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu's biography, entitled "A Life of Purpose". The book follows Professor Nkuhlu's memorable path from student activist, to Robben Island prisoner at 19, to becoming South Africa's first black...

26-03-2015 in Trustees

ACCORD Trustee Ambassador Modise recognized at the inaugural Ubuntu Awards

On 14 February 2015 ACCORD Trustee H.E. Ambassador Billy Modise, was one of the recipients of the Ubuntu Lifetime Achiever Award, presented at the inaugural Ubuntu Awards ceremony hosted by the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)...

12-03-2015 in Trustees

Peacebuilding in Africa: evolving challenges, responses and new thinking

From the 23th to the 25th of February 2015, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) was represented at a conference hosted by Wilton Park in the United Kingdom, organized under the theme of 'Peacebuilding in Africa:...

12-03-2015 in Peacebuilding

TfP/ACCORD participate in expert workshop on impact of peacekeeping training on peace and security in West Africa

The Training for Peace in Africa (TfP) Programme at ACCORD (TfP/ACCORD) participated in an Expert workshop on Impact of Peacekeeping Training on Peace and Security in West Africa. The workshop forms part of a research on peacekeeping training which was...

10-03-2015 in Peacekeeping

Lesotho elections the topic of discussion at recent ACCORD internal staff seminar

On 26 February 2015, two days before the general elections that took place in the Kingdom of Lesotho, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) hosted an internal staff seminar where Thulisa Ndlela, Programme Officer in the...

06-03-2015 in Knowledge Production

TfP/ACCORD supports African Regional Consultation Seminar on UN Peace Operations Review

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon established a 17 member High-Level Independent Panel in October 2014 to undertake an assessment of the state of UN peace operations, and the emerging operational needs of the future" 'Understanding the relationship between the...

06-03-2015 in Peacekeeping

ACCORD discuss gender normative frameworks and nuanced challenges to gender parity and empowerment in Africa ahead of International Women's Day

Broad discussion and debate on the nuanced challenges to the achievement of gender parity and women's empowerment in Africa characterised an Internal Staff Seminar (ISS) recently hosted at the Durban offices of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of...

06-03-2015 in Women

ACCORD hosts senior official from SA Department of International Relations & Cooperation

On Friday 20 February 2015, ACCORD hosted Ms Maud Dlomo, Deputy Director General (DDG) for Training, Research and Development at the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) for a visit to ACCORD House in Durban, South Africa.

23-02-2015 in General

ACCORD/TfP co-hosts experts’ roundtable on developing a Conduct and Discipline Framework for the AU PSOs

Since its establishment, the AU has played an increased and expanded role in addressing conflicts in the African Continent, including in Darfur, Burundi, Mali, the Central Africa Republic and Somalia. As part of its intervention, the AU has developed policies...

20-02-2015 in Peacekeeping

ACCORD's Executive Director participates in World Bank forum on fragility, conflict and violence

Increasing recognition of the relationships and dynamics between state fragility, conflict and violence now positions these issues amongst the central foci of conflict and development practitioners worldwide. It is in this light that ACCORD's Founder and Executive Director participated in...

20-02-2015 in Executive

Advancing an African peacebuilding agenda

From the 11th to the 12th of February 2015, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) was represented at a conference hosted by the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, organized under the theme of...

20-02-2015 in Peacebuilding

Report on the Fourth International Africa Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference published by ACCORD

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), in partnership with the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution (CAPCR) at California State University, Sacramento, have published a report on the proceedings of the Fourth International Africa Peace...

16-02-2015 in Knowledge Production