Army role in civilian policing expected to grow further under Khama’s presidency
Next time you phone the nearest police station to report a break in there is a good chance that you may have gun toting Botswana Defence Force officers showing up on your door step, instead of police officers.
Different research papers from the University of Botswana and the US Air war College analyzing Botswana budget figures and the country’s civil-military relations point to an emerging pattern where the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is increasingly crowding the Botswana Police Service out of the fight against crime.
University of Botswana lecturer Mpho Molomo and Associate Professor, Department of Leadership & Ethics, US Air War College Dan Henk carried out separate research at different times but came to the same conclusion that the increasing role of the army in civilian policing may be shrinking the police service while helping the growth of the army.
“The continuing use of the military in internal security roles probably retards the development of the police capabilities and may ultimately involve the military in domestic security controversies that undermine its rapport with the citizenry” warns Henk.
Molomo and Henk say the deployment of the BDF in policing activities have reduced the government’s incentive to take the difficult measures necessary to strengthen the anticrime capabilities of the Botswana Police Service.
They use budget allocations to show that although the Botswana police are still struggling to keep pace with high crime rates, they continue to receive less financial support compared to the BDF.
For example, in the 1996 budget, out of a total of 209 million that was allocated to the Office of the President for development expenditures the 12 000 men strong BDF received P145 million while the police received only P45 million.
This trend has been repeated in successive budgets. In 1997, out of a total development budget of P282 million, the BDF and police claimed 64% and 28 % respectively. In the 2001 budget the BDF received 66% of the P638 million Development budget.
In 2003 the BDF received P415 million while the police was given only P145 million; in 2004 the BDF received P391 million while the Botswana Police Service received P120 million; in 2005 the BDF received P300 million while the Botswana Police service received only P100 million and in the 2006 budget the BDF was given P310 million while the police took only P181 million.
The trend is expected to get worse when Vice President Ian Khama becomes president. “No discussion of politics, military affairs, or conservation in Botswana can avoid a discussion of Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
His prominence and continuing interest undoubtly will influence the use of the military in Botswana into the foreseeable future.
He used his position both in the military and later in national politics to support an environmentalist agenda, argues Henk. Khama’s likely future as president will have significant ramifications for Botswana’s military, a fact amplified by the peculiar nature of civil-military relations in the country.
That peculiarity has, nonetheless provided the government with the political space to commit its military to anti-poaching and public policing without fear of public backlash. Henk further observes that “considerable power is concentrated is concentrated in the office of the president.
This has very specific ramifications for the employment of the military. In the military’s founding legislation, the president was designated commander in chief, with the prerogative to select the defence commander and promote all officials above the rank of major.
The president was also authorized to deploy the military in whole or in part without consulting anybody. The Act did not create a ministry of defence delegating that role instead to the Office of the President. Nor did the legislation specify any particular role for the national assembly in the oversight of the military.
No mention was made of a legislative role in allocating funding or employment of the force.
“The most perceptive observers of national politics in Botswana believe that essential security-related decisions are made by a small group of senior officials that are close confidantes of the president, with limited consultation outside this circle. Significantly this group includes the past and present commanders of the BDF.” READ INDEPTH FOR DETAILS