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Botswana Citizens Hail Former President Mogae’s Distinguished Leadership Award

The Batwana are reportedly brimming with pride after former President Festus Mogae won the $5-million Mo Ibrahim Prize for African leadership Monday for steering Botswana along a stable, prosperous path and leading the fight against AIDS. Mogae is regarded internationally as an exemplary African leader who ensured that the tenet of democracy flourished under his rule, making Botswana a rare political and economic success story on the continent.

Mogae handed over power peacefully earlier this year in what political observers described as a smooth transition after nearly a decade in power. The prize is awarded to a democratically elected former leader of a sub-Saharan African country who served out his constitutional term and left office within the past three years.

Moethaleemane Ntabele is the executive secretary of Mmegi Publishing Trust, an independent Botswana newspaper. From the capital, Gabarone, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that the country is proud the international community has put the country on a high pedestal.

"Generally the mood is just of pride that there has been recognition of the work that has been done by our former president. And the issue of the monetary award that goes along with the recognition. People believe that it would also help to uplift the lives of Batwana (plural for Botswana citizens). Given that, we believe the majority of the money he won would be used as part of his foundation in helping, especially in HIV/AIDS where he has been working quite hard and in the other part education he is interested in," Ntabele noted.

He said most people expressed joy when the news of the award was announced.

"They were quite happy. In fact before he left office, he moved around the country to bid the nation farewell. And given the type of reception that he received was an indication of the pleasure that the nation had in his leadership. He was actually given a lot of presents, and very big ones for that matter. I believe the whole nation was quite happy with the way he ruled this country because he didn't deviate generally from the policies of the first and second presidents of Botswana," he said.

Ntabele said the current government has welcomed news of the former presidents award.

"The government is reacting with excitement since the news came along because the news was rightly there in the government radio and even on television. They made it the top of the newscasts, which is big here. It only means that the government is really excited about the former president's award," Ntabele pointed out.

The first winner of the prize last year was Mozambique's former President Joaquim Chissano, who stepped aside after leading his country to peace and democracy after years of civil war.

Mo Ibrahim, is a Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur, who established the prize as a way to encourage good governance in Africa, to encourage adherence to democratic principles across the continent.

Meanwhile, Survival International is criticizing the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for awarding its achievement in African Leadership' prize to Festus Mogae, who as president of Botswana oversaw what the organization claims was the eviction of Kalahari Bushmen from their rightfully owned land.