History of Botswana

The history of Botswana is comparable to other African countries in the sense that their history can be divided into three periods, namely, before European occupation, European occupation and independence. However, the history of Botswana and its people can be considered unique because the period of their independence has been characterized by both political and economic stability.

Before European occupation

The major ethnic group in Botswana is called the ‘Tswana,’ from which the term Botswana is derived. Before the Europeans came to Africa, the people in Botswana were mostly herders and farmers that were under tribal rule. Right before the Europeans came, there were hostilities that broke out between the inhabitants of Botswana and other tribes from other places, which included hostilities between Boers and the tribes of Botswana.

European occupation

By 1885, the hostilities became worse. To end the hostilities, Khama III, who was then the leader of Botswana, asked the British Government for assistance by putting the northern territory (Bechuanaland) under its protection. This northern part eventually became Botswana, and the southern part became part of South Africa.

When Britain formed the Union of South Africa, the Bechuanaland protectorate was not included together with Lesotho and Swaziland. The British made a provision that these areas would later be incorporated in the Union, but this never occurred. Two of the major events that hindered this incorporation were the institutionalization of apartheid in South Africa in 1948 and the eventual withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961. While all these were happening, British authorities expanded. In the 1920s, tribal governments evolved in Botswana through the establishment of two advisory councils represented by Africans and Europeans. In 1934, tribal rules and powers were formally established, which led to the establishment of a European-African council in 1951. In 1961, a constitution was drafted, and it established a consultative legislative council in the country.


By 1964, the British accepted the desire of Botswana to be independent and allowed the people to write a new constitution by 1965. After the constitution was written, elections were held, and independence was granted in September of 1966. The first President to be elected was Seretse Khama who served until 1980 (after two re-elections) until his death in office. Since then, regular elections have been held every five years. The current President of Botswana is Festus Mogae.

The history of Botswana may have followed the trend of most African countries. However, Botswana has experienced relative stability since its independence. This sets the country apart from the more unstable democracies in the region.