Message from the Director: A Farewell to President Mogae
BOTUSA Director Dr. Margarett Davis
His Excellency President Festus Mogae retired at the end of March after serving his country for nearly a decade. Mogae is well respected and has won admiration as a global leader – especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Many of the attributes possessed by Mogae as President of Botswana are worthy of note to any aspiring candidate for a public office.
Good leaders lead by example and inspire others to take positive action themselves. Mogae practiced what he preached when it came to HIV/AIDS. Instead of burying his head in the sand, Mogae decided to stand boldly to fight for the country and its people. He was one of the first heads of state in the world to publicly test for HIV and share his results. Doing that took great courage, another attribute of a good leader.
By being one of the first African leaders to chair his country’s National AIDS Council (a practice that has since been taken up by other African heads of state), President Mogae brought to bear the responsible stewardship that directly and positively influenced the implementation of various national HIV/AIDS programs. Many of these programs have turned Botswana into the envy of Africa for their innovation and creativity.
To name a few achievements, Botswana was the first country in Africa to provide free anti-retroviral therapy to all citizens. Today, more than 90 percent of the patients who need treatment are receiving it. Botswana was also the first African country to introduce routine “opt-out” HIV testing, which has since dramatically increased the number of people who know their HIV status and are thus able to access many care and treatment programs. President Mogae personally and publicly encouraged Batswana to accept routine testing when they visit health care facilities. Under Mogae’s watch, Botswana has implemented one of the most successful Prevention of Mother-to-Child Treatment programs – which has recently reduced HIV transmission from mother to child to less than 4 percent.
A good leader is sincere, and Mogae has kept most of the
public promises he made while in office. In April 2001, leaders at the
African Union (AU) summit in Abuja promised to allocate 15 percent of their
countries’ national budgets towards improving the health sector. Botswana is
one of two
AU member states that have met and exceeded the 15 percent target, and Botswana is the only member state in Southern African Development Community (SADC) to do so.
Good leaders should care about the people they lead. When many leaders were remaining silent about the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their countries, Mogae was standing in front of the United Nations Assembly declaring that his Batswana brothers and sisters were “threatened with extinction.” He has never backed down from the fact that the country is one of the hardest hit by HIV/AIDS.
Mogae’s commitment and dedication to the fight has brought Botswana a lot of attention and support over the years, including from the U.S. government. President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has dedicated nearly $300 million (or P1.9 billion) to Botswana since 2004. The support has helped strengthen the successful implementation of Botswana’s national strategy against HIV and AIDS.
As President Mogae heads into retirement, we congratulate him and send him our very best wishes for a long and productive retirement. Pula!.
is a collaboration between the Government of Botswana and the U.S. Centers
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