History & Politics

60,000 years of heritage

Archaeological evidence suggests hunter/gatherers have lived in this part of Africa for well over 60,000 years.

Ancient rock art

Tsodilo Hills art, by Joachim Huber [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the Tsodilo Hills of the Kalahari, ancient paintings of animals and humans adorn the rock faces. Bone fish hooks have been found dating back more than 20,000 years.

From the middle to late Stone Age (around 3000BC), Khoi and San hunter/gatherers began keeping animals in areas where water supplies allowed.

In the first few centuries AD, they were joined by migrations of Bantu-speaking farmers. Khoisan people either assimilated into the migrant Bantu groups or were pushed into areas unsuitable for cultivation, such as the Kalahari.

Kingdoms and visionary leaders

Various chiefdoms formed through the Middle Ages. By around AD1700, large settlements were common. Tswana people moved into the region and powerful states emerged.

In the early 1800s, white settlement across southern Africa pushed locals northwards. With a demand for slaves in the east, tribal wars erupted from 1750 to 1840. This period of violent disruption and migration is known as the Difaquane Wars ('difaquane' means 'the scattering').

Khama the Great was chief of the Ngwato people in the 19th century. He was a visionary leader and saw the need to protect his kingdom from the colonial carving-up of Africa. He therefore campaigned for the setting up of the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana) in 1885.

European missionaries arrived in numbers from around 1880. All major towns and villages in Botswana had one. Some chiefs rejected this outside influence, while others such as Khama the Great, embraced the Christian faith.

The birth of a stable, well-educated nation

Two-term presidents

Appointed by parliament, the president is head of state and government, serving a maximum of two five-year terms in office. The current president is Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama (son of the first president).

Khama’s son, Tshekedi Khama, ruled the region (under the British Protectorate) from 1926 to 1959. He promoted the birth of the country’s educational system.

His successor (a younger son of Khama the Great) was Seretse Khama, who became the first president after independence in 1966.

Enjoying decades of stability since independence, Botswana is a multiparty republic, with elections every five years. It's parliament consists of two houses – the National Assembly and the House of Chiefs.