Defence minister Peter Vilho has explained the existence of Namibian Defence Force (NDF) camps set up within 500 metres of civilians’ dwellings in villages in the Zambezi region, saying it is to prevent members of the public from being injured by projectiles that could be launched from such areas.
Vilho clarified this in parliament on Thursday while responding to Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Geoffrey Mwilima, who wanted to know about the camps.
“The camps set up in some other part of the country is done with the aim to fulfil the defence force mandate as provided for by the supreme law of the country. The main reason for that is to prevent members of the public from being injured by projectiles that could be launched from such areas,” Vilho said in a statement delivered by his deputy Hilma Nicanor in parliament last week.
“Similar restrictions apply for air and naval exercises,” Vilho added.
However, Vilho said, the purpose of the current deployment in the Zambezi area is to safeguard the borders of the country, cautioning against individuals instigating local population against the deployment, saying that they will be dealt with in accordance with the country’s laws.
“The underlying logic here is that one can choose the place and time of an exercise, but one cannot choose the place and time of where a threat will occur,” he stressed.
Vilho also responded to allegations by Mwilima of soldiers in the Zambezi region being sexual abused, saying his office has not received any single report in relation to the claims.
“As parliamentarians, we represent all Namibians. We should, therefore, refrain from casting aspersion, especially on those sections of our society who are not in position to defend themselves,” Vilho said.
“We should bear in mind that our soldiers are not bogeymen but [they] are citizens with the same rights as you and me. They are someone’s child, someone’s spouse, someone’s parent and someone’s neighbour – and as such deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
He noted that since the 90s, the NDF soldiers have been deployed across the whole country: in towns, settlements and villages.
“We have not received a single report in relation to the allegations made by Hon. Mwilima. The question, therefore, is why these acts would, as alleged, only occur from the current deployments in that part of the Zambezi region?” he questioned.