“Leaving office not a train smash” – former Botswana president urges African leaders

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Former Botswana president Ian Khama has urged African leaders to leave office when their mandates come to an end, saying doing so was not a ‘train smash’.

“I’d like to advise all my former colleagues who may feel hesitant about wanting to leave office that there is nothing to be worried about. They should move aside and give others an opportunity,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

Khama stepped down as president of Botswana on 31 March, handing the leadership of the diamond-rich country to his deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi after a decade at the helm.

The 65-year-old took an unusual trend from other African leaders, stepping aside a year before his mandate was scheduled to end.

While some African leaders failed to step down at the end of their mandates, others altered their countries’ constitutions to enable them stay on in leadership.

Asked about his criticism of Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Khama said the failure to hold elections when they were scheduled has escalated the political instability in the central African nation.

“Had they held elections when they were supposed to, there would have been a new dispensation in the DRC and an attempt to try and resolve the problems in that country. The political situation has bred more instability in that country the longer he (Kabila) holds on to power,” Khama said.

“You’d probably find that most people want him out of there. He is hanging on. He is just not doing any good for the DRC. We need to get a new dispensation there as soon as possible to start trying to resolve the problems in that country,” he added.

Kabila’s mandate ended in November 2016, but he stayed on as president after his country failed to conduct a vote to find his replacement. The electoral authority said it was unable to hold the vote due to logistical challenges.

Opposition leaders however accused Kabila of frustrating the electoral process in order to cling on to power, accusations he refuted.

The elections are now scheduled to be held on 23  December, with the DR Congo government saying earlier this year that Kabila will not be altering the constitution to be able to run again.