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Botswana

A land locked country occupying the center of southern Africa. Botswana’s history is closely linked with that of its neighbors, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The Tswana, a Bantu people, migrated to the region several hundred years ago but did not form a coherent political unit until the 19th century. Khama III brought the Tswana together to resist incursions by the Matabele and by Boer trekkers from the Transvaal. Great Britain moved to protect its colonial ambitions in Africa from a German threat by claiming Bechuanaland , as the country was formerly called. In 1885 northern Bechuanaland was made a protectorate, and southern Bechuanaland became a Crown colony. In 1895 the southern part was included in the South African Cape Colony. When the Union of South Africa’s constitution was drafted in 1909, it stated that Bechuanaland would eventually become part of the Union along with the other British protectorates of the region. British administration over the protectorate of Bechuanaland continued until 1965 when general elections were held, a new constitution was adopted, and the capital was moved from the South African city of Mafeking to Gaborone. Independence was granted in 1966 as a member of the British Commonwealth, with the new name of Botswana. Led by Sir Seretse Khama, the new nation’s prospects seemed linked to those of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and to South Africa’s needs for cattle ranching; but large deposits of diamonds, nickel, and copper were soon discovered. Sir Seretse moved to establish close ties with Zambia to the north and the rest of black Africa, while continuing economic relations with South Africa. In the late 1970s, Rhodesian security forces repeatedly entered Botswana in search of Zimbabwe guerrillas; the situation remained very tense until Zimbabwe’s independence in 1979. Botswana is unique in sub-Saharan Africa in that it has had stable government with democratic elections and sustained economic growth. Botswana is favorably rated as having the least corrupt government in Africa. The country is also suffering a health crisis that may undermine this progress with over a third of the adult population infected with the HIV virus.


     

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