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The Republic of Botswana is a South African country surrounded by Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa. Prior to achieving independence in 1966, it was a British protectorate known as Bechuanaland.

A popular African safari destination, Botswana had more elephants than anywhere else in the world. It is also home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, buffalos, zebras, several types of antelope, and many other species of mammals, as well as a rich supply of interesting birds. Its landscape is spectacular.

Botswana faces a couple of major environmental problems, and they are related: drought and desertification. Due to low rainfall, most of the country's wildlife are dependent upon groundwater, and surface water has become scarce. More than half the people in Botswana raise cattle. Raising livestock is the main source of income for most of the country's population, so Botswana's wildlife has to compete with domesticated animals for diminishing water supplies. Grazing has also contributed to desertification of the landscape.

The Botswana population is made of several native ethnic groups, with the Tswana accounting for nearly 80%, while the largest minority groups are the Bakalanga and the San. Since the mid-1990s, the Botswana government has been forcibly relocated from their native lands onto reservations as their lands are in the middle of the world's richest diamond field.

Although the official language of Botswana is English, Setswana is spoken throughout the country. Others include Kalanga, Sarwa, Ndebele, and Afrikaans. About 70% of the country's population identify as Christians, majority denominations including the Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa.

Human beings have lived in the area now known as Botswana for more than 100,000 years. The original inhabitants were the San, also known as the Bushmen, who lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and still would if they weren't confined to reservations. Approximately one millennium ago, large chiefdoms were developed that were eventually incorporated into the Great Zimbabwe empire, which had swept into eastern Botswana. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Botswana lived as herders and farmers and were governed by tribal governments. New tribes were created with groups broke off and moved to a new area.

The Europeans brought the slave trade to Botswana in the 1700s. In an effort to resist the slave traders, the Zulu Empire developed a military, and conquered tribes started moving into Botswana, bringing wanton destruction. Botswana tribes began trading ivory and skins with the Europeans for guns, which brought European traders into the interior of Africa. With them came Christian missionaries, and by 1880 nearly every village had a resident missionary, resulting in the Christianization of Botswana.

During the late 1800s, conflicts escalated between various tribes in Botswana, other tribes that were coming into the area, and Dutch Boer settlers. In response to appeals from missionaries, the British government but the land under its protection in 1885, and the northern part of Botswana became the Bechuanaland Protectorate, splitting it from the southern territory, which was made part of the Cape Colon, and is now part of South Africa.

When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland, and Swaziland were not included. The Bechuanaland Protectorate became Botswana, Basutoland became Lesotho, and Swaziland has remained Swaziland, although it has other names as well. Provisions were made for reunited these areas at the time, but the 1948 election of a nationalist government in South Africa, which established apartheid, and the withdrawal of South Africa from the British Commonwealth in 1961, put a halt to any chance of this occurring.

In the 1920s, Britain extended its central authority over Botswana, while two advisory councils were established, one to represent the Africans and another for the Europeans, with the African council consisting of the chiefs of the Tswana tribes along with some elected members. Tribal rule was strengthened in 1934, and a consultative legislative council was established in 1961.

In 1964, Britain began to encourage a democratic self-government for Botswana. A constitution was adopted in 1965, and the country's first elections were held in 1966. Since then, the country has enjoyed peaceful transitions from one elected president to another.

The Botswana government is a representative democratic republic, in which the president is the head of state and head of the government. Executive government is in the hands of the government, while legislative power is vested n the government and the parliament. A judiciary operates independently of the government and legislature.



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