Thursday, October 28, 2021

BDF faces two parallel “shoot to kill” investigations

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is facing two separate investigations by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Namibian Parliament. The aim of the investigations is to determine whether the shooting of Namibian citizens suspected to be poachers was within the confines of the law.

Sunday Standard has learnt that the investigations,  could result in some BDF officers being held criminally liable.

Reports indicate that the two nations are trying to maintain diplomat ties but public pressure is mounting on Namibia to ensure that the shoot to kill strategy adopted by its neighbour is abolished.

Last week a report emerged that Botswana has finally bowed to international pressure and launched an inquest into the killing of three Namibians and their Zambian cousin by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) along the Chobe River last year.

Botswana and Namibia border has long been highly contentious. The namibian parliament has bowed to public pressure and is conducting a sweeping parallel investigation into the alleged harassment of its citizens by the BDF.

The opening of an inquest by Botswana authorities and probe by the Namibian Parliament simultaneously raises stakes for the BDF which now faces two or more investigations some of which are criminal in nature.

The decision by the Namibian Parliament to launch a parallel investigation follows a string of demonstrations by some Namibians which resulted in a nationwide crusade  aimed at mobilising international human rights groups against what they described as extra judicial killings by the BDF.

A movement in Namibia at the forefront of the campaign, which identifies itself as Namibian Lives Matter, communicated the crusade in letters written to a number of civil society organisations.

Some of those which had been approached by the Namibians are Ditshwanelo- The Botswana Centre for Human Rights and the Southern African Litigation Centre.

“The letter seeks your attention in helping seek justice for the death of innocent and unarmed fishermen who were gunned down in cold blood by the Botswana Defence Force,” the letter states.

The movement alleges that “Tommy Nchindo, Martin Nchindo, Wamunyima Nchindo and Sinvula Munyeme were captured by Botswana Defence on Namibian soil, assaulted, tortured and executed at point blank range while the deceased held their hands over their heads on November 03 2020.”

The movement claims it represents 37 Namibians who were allegedly killed by the BDF while fishing in the Chobe River. “We have witness statements from Namibians who know what happened and are ready to testify. We are reporting this issue to your organisation as a matter that needs thorough investigation and expose the BDF to the international world,” the movement said.

Reports indicate that the inquest is underway before a Kasane Magistrate following a decision by the Directorate of Public Prosecution to register it with the Court.

The inquest is expected to commence on 15 November and the expectation is also that it would last for 10 working days.

Families of the deceased and representatives from Namibian Government as well as from Namibian Lives Matter movement are expected to grace the hearing. The prosecution has also handed the court copies of the album that was compiled by investigators.

Meanwhile Namibia’s parliament standing committee on Home Affairs, Security, Constitution and Legal Affairs has commenced with public hearings into the security situation along Chobe, Linyanti and Kwando rivers. The committee is expected to meet community members and traditional leaders and compile a report that would map the way forward regarding boarder relations between the two neighbouring countries.

The Standing Committee’s Chairperson, John Lukando revealed that the committee would among others investigate issues of alleged “intimidation and ill treatment of people living along the border between Botswana and Namibia, how they have been treated by the security force of the other side,” and how the alleged intimidation and harassment had affected that country’s tourism sector.

“We will also focus on the effects of livelihood, you know people living along the river depend on the shared resources,” he said.

In his submission to the Parliament Committee Coordinator Namibian Lives Matter, Charles Siyanya said, “As of now war is not an option. We value peace and we have more good reasons to work with Botswana that to fight one another.  This can only be realized, if Botswana stops acts of terror, provocation, intimidation and harassment of innocent Namibians.”  He said they expect protection from their government against a foreign army. The committee also heard that BDF soldiers allegedly shot and killed a nine-year-old identified as Tuwayape in 1998.

“How can a 9-year-old be a poacher? We expect the Government of Botswana to arrest and prosecute all BDF soldiers who killed innocent Namibians by a competent court and we expect compensation to all victims of BDF brutality.”

Siyanya called on the Committee to ensure that Namibia backtracks on a treaty that it allegedly signed secretly with Botswana in 2018 a- move which the United Nations had reportedly advised against.

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