Botswana denies plot to kill ex-leader Ian Khama

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Botswana’s government has dismissed allegations that it plans to arrest and kill exiled former President Ian Khama if he returned home.

In an interview last week, Mr Khama told the AFP news agency that he had information about plans to arrest and poison him upon arriving home from South Africa, where he has been living in exile since 2021.

He alleges the Botswana government fears his influence ahead of next year’s general elections.

But in a statement on Tuesday, communication permanent secretary William Sentshebeng dismissed Mr Khama’s allegation as “outrageous and unfortunate”.

“We regard the claims as politically motivated and with sole intention to tarnishing the good image of Botswana and her government,” Mr Sentshebeng said.

With elections due next year, Mr Khama has vowed to unseat his handpicked successor Mokgweetsi Masisi, now a bitter rival whom he accuses of being a threat to democracy.

Mr Khama said he was preparing to return home to “join with other parties to ensure that he [Mr Masisi] and his party lose the elections”.

The former 70-year-old leader said he had undergone a “full medical check” and updated his will because he was almost certain that within days of arriving he would be arrested.

Mr Khama, a former senior military officer, governed one of Africa’s top diamond producing nations for a decade until 2018, before handing the reigns to Mr Masisi, then his deputy.

The row between him and his successor started in 2018 when President Masisi started reversing some key policies adopted during Mr Khama’s tenure.

In December last year, Botswana issued an arrest warrant for Mr Khama, alleging unlawful possession of firearms.

The next month, President Masisi struck a more reconciliatory note, but the rivalry between the two continues.