1990-98: President Sir Ketumile Masire
The early 1990s saw several corruption scandals in which a number of ministers resigned – including, in March 1992 the vice-president, Peter Mmusi. (Contrast these with the paucity of resignations that occur during corruption scandals in most governments and you'll realise this is a good sign, not a bad one, for the integrity of Botswana's government!)
Another general election was held on October 15 1994, with the BNF triumphing in the urban areas, winning 13 seats (37.7% of the vote), while the BDP continued to command the support of the rural constituencies, which elected it to 40 seats (53.1% of the vote). The elections had been peaceful, with around a 70% turnout, and at last Botswana had an opposition party capable of a serious challenge to the BDP.
There was some unrest in early 1995, with several days of violence between the BDF and demonstrators (mainly students and the unemployed) during which one person was killed. However, most of this was sporadic and short-lived.
During this time relations with Botswana's neighbours were generally good. However, in 1992 a border squabble arose between Botswana and Namibia over a tiny island (called Sedudu, or Kasikili, by Botswana, or Namibia, respectively) in the Chobe River. See page 195 for more details of this argument. A potentially much more serious issue arose in 1996 when Namibia announced plans to construct a pipeline to take water from the Okavango River at Rundu. Given that this would impact directly on the Okavango Delta, the possibility of such a pipeline remains a source of great concern for Botswana.
Then in 1998 an influx of refugees from Namibia's Caprivi Strip arrived, including Mishake Muyongo, who had been suspended as president of the Namibia's opposition party, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance. He and other leading Caprivians had campaigned for independence for the province. By 1999, over 2,000 refugees were living near Gaborone. Namibia's extradition demands were refused, although eventually a settlement was brokered by the UNHCR whereby the most prominent refugees were granted asylum in Denmark, and the rest returned to Namibia under an amnesty.
Internal electoral reform had long been on the agenda in Botswana, with some consensus about the need for it from all the political parties. In 1997 various amendments to the constitution were passed, including a reduction in the voting age from 21 to 18 years old, the establishment of an electoral commission which is independent of the government, and a measure to restrict the president to a maximum of two terms in office.
Masire reshuffled the cabinet slightly in September 1997, and soon announced that he planned to retire in 1998.