The earliest inhabitants of the area were the San, followed by the Tswana. Bechuanaland, as it was known before independence, had been the crossroads for missionaries, merchants and migrants before Britain annexed and declared it a protectorate in 1885 in a preemptive strike to prevent the Boers of the Transvaal from taking possession. Independence for Bechuanaland under its new name, Botswana, came in 1966. The first elected president, Sir Seretse Khama, remained in power until his death in 1980. Khama was succeeded by Vice President and later Sir Ketumile Masire who remained in power for seventeen years. When Masire retired in 1998, his vice president- an Oxford educated economist and former Finance Minister- Festus Mogae, was elected president. Mogae was reaffirmed in the post in 2004 and declared his intention to step down in favor of Vice President Seretse Ian Khama, son of Botswana's first president.