Nam, Botswana to quell cross-border fears

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Nam, Botswana to quell cross-border fears

KATIMA MULILO – The Namibian Defence Force and the Botswana Defence Force yesterday signed a civil-military cooperation plan.

It aims to determine opportunities for humanitarian intervention to improve the livelihoods of the people living along the common border.  Despite the excellent bilateral relations existing between the two nations, communities living along the common border, particularly in some parts of the Zambezi region and the Chobe district in Botswana, continue to face challenges related to their legal movement along the common land and riverine boundary to access shared natural and water resources. 

In recognition of existing challenges and the mutual desire to forge closer ties of cooperation, the inaugural session of the Botswana/Namibia Bi-national Commission, held in Gaborone from 5 to 9 September 2022, directed the NDF and BDF to develop a detailed plan to commence civil-military cooperation activities targeting communities living along the border. 

The move comes after Namibians living along the border complained against what they deem the BDF’s shoot-to-kill policy.

In 2020, three brothers, Tommy (48), Martin (40), Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44), were shot by the BDF on 5 November along the Chobe River. 

The Kasane court in 2022 absolved the BDF from gross negligence and liability for criminal litigation in the brutal killing of the three Nchindo brothers and their Zambian cousin. 

Residents of the Zambezi region protested, and called on the Botswana government to stop its shoot-to-kill policy along the Namibian border. The concerned group, in August 2022, asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi and his defence chief Placid Segokgo over the “extrajudicial killing or murder” of the four men. However, the ICC said they could not investigate, as the allegations fall outside the jurisdiction of the court. 

Signing the plan yesterday, NDF major general Petrus Nathinge said the aim is to inform the public and all stakeholders about the intended civil-military cooperation plan’s activities along the common border. 

“These activities will be conducted through sensitisation campaigns coordinated by both the NDF and BDF, including stakeholders from both countries,” he noted.

The stakeholders include local and traditional authorities; ministries responsible for home affairs, immigration, safety and security; environment; agriculture; fisheries; health; justice; information; state security agencies; revenue authorities; and the media and religious leaders.

Before the commencement of the campaigns, there will be a joint launch of the plan in both countries by the ministers of defence. The launch in Botswana will be done at Lasane on 11 June, followed by the one in Namibia to be held at Katima Mulilo on 13 June 2024. 

“The conduct of the sensitisation campaigns will be a continuous process. They will be conducted concurrently for four consecutive days in both countries,” Nathinge stated. 

The first leg of the implementation of the plan will be done in two phases, namely the sensitisation campaigns one and two. It will be conducted in Sector One and Alpha, covering the area from Impalila Island to Mohembo in Namibia, and Kazungula to Shakawe in Botswana from 9 to 12 July 2024.

The communities will be sensitised on illegal activities such as smuggling of goods and illicit products, poaching and illegal fishing, amongst others. The campaign will target 19 villages in Namibia, and 21 villages in Botswana.  Sensitisation campaign two will run from 6 to 9 August, which will deal with human-wildlife conflict. Sector Two and the Bravo border area will cover from Mohembo to Buitepos in Namibia and Mamuno in Botswana. 

Sector Three and Charleshill border area will cover Buitepos to Union’s End in Namibia, and Mamuno to Union’s End in Botswana. All these sectors have varying concentrations of civilian populations and wild animals. 

Hence, both forces acknowledged that the common security challenges in these sectors include poaching of iconic species such as rhinos and elephants by international poachers for their horns and tusks. 

Equally, there are instances of subsistence poaching, livestock rustling, illegal fishing, illegal wildlife trade and other illicit activities. “The sensitisation of the civilian communities on the importance of wildlife to the economies of the two countries will assist in reducing illegal activities,” Nathinge stressed.

Both Nathinge and his Botswana counterpart, major general Simon Barwabatsile, reassured the public in both countries that they are committed to defending the integrity of their territories, protecting their people, as well as ensuring that natural resources both in water and on land are protected and preserved for future generations.