Former Botswana president Sir Ketumile Masire dies at 91

Friday June 23 2017

Former Botswana president Sir Ketumile Masire, member of the prize committee of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, attending the announcement of the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in Nairobi on March 2, 2015. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL


Botswana’s second president Sir Ketumile Masire has died aged 91.

He had been hospitalised in critical condition at the Bokamoso Hospital in the capital Gaborone since last Friday.

His family and the trustees of the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation (SKMF) issued a statement on Thursday night confirming his death.

"He died peacefully at Bokamoso Private Hospital surrounded by his family at 10:10pm on 22 June 2017," read the statement.

Sir Masire is considered the main architect of what has been one of Africa's most successful economic transition.

He was Botswana's first vice president after independence in 1966 before replacing President Seretse Khama in 1980. He served as president for 18 years until voluntarily stepping down in 1998. He was succeeded by Festus Mogae, who had been his vice president.


Sir Masire played a leading role in the independence movement and thereafter in the southern Africa country’s steady financial growth and development.

Razia Khan, a well-known commentator on African markets and Africa chief economist at Standard Chartered Bank shared her condolences to the family on Twitter saying: "He may have overseen the most impressive economic transition in Africa, but he was always humble. A true leader. Loved by his people."

Ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has been in power since Independence, said Thursday night that his leadership example deserved to be celebrated.  

Sir Masire had been actively involved in numerous diplomatic initiatives, leading efforts to resolve political crises in a number of African countries including Mozambique, DR Congo, Lesotho and Kenya.

He was also the chairman of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities investigating the circumstances of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, from 1998 to 2000.

He founded the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation in 2007 to promote the social and economic wellbeing of the Botswanans.

Sir Masire was born on July 23, 1925 in a small village Kanye, southwest of Botswana's capital, Gaborone.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991.