Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

15 September 2008

Botswana: Kaunda Hails Mogae

Former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, has hailed ex-Botswana president Festus Mogae for his extraordinary work in rousing African leaders to come together and tackle HIV head on.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation workshop last week in Gaborone, Kaunda said that prior to the meeting, Mogae had convened a conference of dignitaries in Mexico. In the Mexico meeting, Kaunda said Mogae worked to set the tone of the concept paper under which was discussed in Gaborone last week. "The deliberations were not easy, but the champions rose to the challenge," he said.

Some of the champions are Justice Edwin Cameron, a South African human rights advocate, Professor Marriam Were, a medical doctor, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ex-presidents Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) and Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania). Kaunda thanked the champions for their role in working out the concept paper that entails how they will chart the way forward in the AIDS fight. In their two days meet, they refined their mission and priorities, he said.

He added that being a champion is a special honour. This is because a champion has special qualities, which largely border on selflessness and self-sacrifice.

"Champions do what is right even when it hurts. Champions know winning is not necessarily measured by the final score. They take a stand even if they stand alone. Champions may fail but they never quit," he said.

Mogae is the chairperson of the champions. He said they have agreed to include a younger person to represent the youth. He announced that they will set up a secretariat in Gaborone to help the champions' work. The office to be set up in Gaborone will be headed by Dr Kereng Masupu, formerly of National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA).

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