The relationship between Kenneth Koma and the Botswana Democratic Party, 1965-2003
PublisherOxford university press/www.oup.com
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This article assesses the weaknesses of opposition in Botswana through the case of Kenneth Koma, the influential President of the Botswana National Front (BNF) from 1977 to 2001. This is done by examining the perception that from 1997 Koma’s relationship with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) destabilized and weakened the opposition in the country. The article challenges a view, held by some of his detractors in the opposition, that his leadership style was out of tune with global trends. It also argues that what some people have viewed as ‘tribalism’ — the domination of the BDP leadership by members of the Bangwato tribe (of which Koma is also a member) — seems to be primarily a matter of expediency. This alleged tribalism is used by Koma’s critics as a smear. The article analyzes the relationship between Koma and the BDP at both political and personal levels. At the political level, Koma’s failure to keep the BNF united has been capitalized on by the BDP to tighten its grip on power. At the personal level, Koma has used his connections in the BDP to advantage in his business dealings. Koma’s cult status and his personal and political choices have therefore significantly contributed to de facto one-party rule in Botswana.