Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Khama III

Khama III (1837?-1923), also known as Khama the Good, was the kgosi (king) of the BamaNgwato people of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), who made his country a protectorate of the United Kingdom to ensure its survival against Boer and Ndebele encroachments.

Khama became king in 1875, after overthrowing his father Sekgoma and his brother Kgamane. He inherited a realm best by problems, with constant Ndebele incursions from the north (in what is now Zimbabwe) exacerbated by a new threat from Boer trekkers from the south and German colonialists from the West, all hoping to the seize the territory. He responded by aligning himself with the British, and particularly with the missionaries. Not only did he convert to Christianity; he also enforced the religion on his own people, despite the opposition of traditionalists.

The British government itself, however, was of two minds as to what to do with the territory. One faction, supported by a local missionary named John Mackenzie, advocated the establishment of a protectorate, while another faction, headed by Cecil Rhodes, adopted an imperialist stance and demanded that the country be opened up to white settlement and economic exploitation. The resolution came in 1885, when Khama's kingdom was partitioned: the territory south of the Molopo River became the colony of British Bechuanaland, while the territory north of the river became the Bechuanaland Protectorate. The colony was eventually incorporated into Britain's Cape Colony and is now part of South Africa.

Rhodes continued his campaign to pressure the British government to annex what remained of Khama's territory (the Protectorate) until 1895, when Khama traveled to London to state his case. The colonial administration finally conceded, and the Bechuanaland Protectorate maintained its semi-independent status until 1966, when it gained full independence as the Republic of Botswana. The first president, Sir Seretse Khama, was the grandson and heir of Khama III, who died in 1923.