UK organization laughs at ex Botswana leader’s Ibrahim Award

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A London-based non-governmental organisation, Survival International, has made a mockery of former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, winner of the 2008 prestigious Mo Ibrahim Leadership Award. Botswana’s privately-owned daily newspaper, Mmegi, Wednesday reported the mockery, following the announcement of Mogae as the winner Monday.

Survival International saw things differently, as the organisation believes that Mogae presided over the eviction of the Kalahari Bushmen (San or Basarwa) from their ancestral land. “President Mogae’s tenure overturned decades of tacit respect for Bushmen land r ights. What he initiated still threatens the survival of the Bushmen tribes in the Central Kgalagadi,” Survival International pointed out. The organisation also accused the former president of evicting the Bushmen from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) in 2002, banning them from hunting and gathering.

The body said Bushmen hunters were arrested and tortured and those protesting peacefully against the evictions were shot at. “One woman died of starvation and thirst when Mogae’s government shut down the borders of the reserve,” the organisation said.

A spokesman for the former president, Dr. Jeff Ramsay, responding to the organization’s accusations, said “It is pitiful and pathetic. I’m not surprised at all, that’s what you would expect and their comments are very predictable. I think a lot of people have grown tired of them. Their credibility has declined.”

Established to recognise and celebrate excellence in African Leadership, the Mo Ibrahim Prize is the largest in the world, consisting of a US$ 5million over 10 years and US$ 200,000 annually for life thereafter.

Announcing this year’s winner of the prize in London, the chairperson of the Prize Committee, Kofi Annan said “President Mogae’s outstanding leadership has ensured Botswana’s continued stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/AIDS pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people.” Annan praised Mogae, saying “Botswana demonstrates how a country with natural resources can promote sustainable development with good governance, in a continent where too often mineral wealth has become a curse.”

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