Monday, October 25, 2021

BDF solders threaten mutiny

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has beefed up security and the Military Intelligence (MI) has been placed on high alert following the second threat of a military mutiny in eighteen months. The arms race between the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DISS) and the Department of Wildlife and their scramble for the few trained members of the BDF commando unit’ to beef up their growing militias is now threatening to destabilise the BDF. In a bid to stem the commando brawn drain, the BDF recently approved an exclusive salary increase for its special forces much to the chagrin of its general infantry. The BDF military intelligence was two weeks ago dispatched to retrieve and destroy leaflets prepared by unidentified soilders at the Glen valley barracks inciting their colleagues to stage a mutiny. While information was still scanty on Friday as to what could have triggered this incident, reports indicate that the soldiers were incensed by the BDF high command’s decision to increase salaries of the Commando unit. It is understood that the decision to increase salaries of the commando unit officers was aimed at enticing and retaining the officers who are leaving for greener pastures by joining the Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS) and the Department of Wildlife The competition between the Department of Wildlife and The DISS to build strong militias is believed to be linked to the political jostling for the country’s presidency President Lt Gen Ian Khama. The DISS under Director General Isaack Kgosi is believed to be loyal to Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi while the department of wildlife is under Minister Tshekedi Khama who is a contender to replace his brother when he retirers at the end of his term. Director of Protocol and Public Affairs at BDF Teko Dikole confirmed the incident. “The BDF is aware of information that recently there were a number of leaflets being circulated at the BDF Glen Valley Barracks by unidentified persons and investigations are on going,” said Dikole. However, Dikole said, should investigations reveal the involvement of BDF members “I wish to swiftly point out that such behaviour would be prejudicial to good order and military discipline.” He added that “conduct akin to this will not be condoned in the BDF or anywhere else for that matter.”       The BDF Commando Unit, Special Forces has been hit by a spate of mass resignations who have gone to join either the DISS and the Department of Wildlife. It is reported that by next month, at least twenty Commando officers will have joined either the DISS or the Department of Wildlife following in the footsteps of some who have already joined the two organisations. The leaflets allegedly implored the BDF high command and government to address soldiers’ complaints of low salaries and poor working conditions or face mutiny. The incident which happened 1st February is said to have caught the BDF authorities off guard as they woke to a stash of leaflets circulating inside the barracks. In effort to ensure that the circulation of the leaflets does not spread to other army barracks the BDF high command instructed the military intelligence unit to retrieve the leaflets and burn them.   In 2015 the BDF was rattled by a document claiming that a section of its members were planning to mutiny. At the time, the BDF would not discuss the threat, stating:  “questions raised on your questionnaire which are based on alleged complaints border on issues of national security and may provide a platform for mutinous conduct alleged or intended in part of service members.” The document claims that the recent relocation of rhinos from Zimbabwe and South Africa to Botswana had exposed the BDF anti-poaching unit to danger as they now have to confront armed poachers “who are in pursuit of the relocated rhinos.” The authors of the document, who called themselves “concerned soldiers” complained of the army command’s failure to address their welfare concerns following the relocation of the rhinos. They claim that whenever their tried to engage the BDF command on their concerned, they were accused of indiscipline. The document which was passed to the Sunday Standard, warned that Botswana government should not be “surprised to wake up one morning and find that a number of wild animals have been shot dead by poachers.”  The “concerned soldiers” complain that they are putting their lives at risk although they do not benefit anything from the tourism sector. They further claimed that they “can’t endure the situation anymore and it is time to fight for our rights with our fellow brothers who have since quit the army.” “We would like to remind Government of Botswana and its fellow people that it is too hard to operate in anti poaching activities while we are benefiting nothing from it.  Recently rhinos were relocated from South Africa and Zimbabwe and we believe that this process has attracted poachers from the countries where the rhinos were relocated,” said the alleged concerned soldiers. The document also raised a concern which is being repeated by the currently aggrieved soldiers that sometime in 2010 government promised the BDF officers that it will start paying them for 25 working days. The government has allegedly gone back on its promise and soldiers who dare to inquire about the promise are allegedly accused of indiscipline.

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