Sunday, March 26, 2023

Botswana ÔÇô Namibia clash over killing of “poachers”

Namibian authorities are accusing the Botswana Defence of Force (BDF) of “staging a poaching incident” that never took place in an effort to cover up the shooting of two Namibians and a Zambian national who were allegedly unarmed near the boarders of the two countries. It has since emerged that the Botswana military and police gunned down the trio suspected to be poachers near Shakawe village in north-west of Botswana as they were allegedly found in possession of two elephant tusks, a version which the Namibian authorities are disputing.

Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that the Namibian government is skeptical about the whole incidence and suspects that the evidence might have been planted to justify what they describe as cold-blooded murder. The situation is not helped by the Namibian authorities version that the trio was not found with any firearms, and that had two elephant tusks in their possession. Namibian authorities believe that “there is a huge possibility that Botswana security agents fatally shot the suspects “and planted that evidence to justify the merciless killing.”

The latest fatal incident is expected to stoke the already tense diplomatic relation between Namibian, Zambia over the killings of suspected poachers by Botswana security agents. There are even fears that Botswana’s relatively poor human rights’ standing in handling suspected poachers is becoming a diplomatic problem for the region. Reports indicate that the three countries are currently embroiled in a diplomatic spat over the killings of their citizens and the adoption of the shoot to kill policy by Botswana government.

In 2012 following the fatal shooting of two Namibians by Botswana’s boarder patrolling team, Namibian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a message through the then Botswana Ambassador in Windhoek, Duke Lefhoko, that it does not condone poaching, but called for restraint when using force. The Namibian media at the time even condemned what it described as “Too many Namibians have died or were injured by the BDF over the years in instances that point to their shoot to kill on the spot approach to law enforcement.” Responding to Sunday Standard queries Namibian Police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi said “yes the three men were indentified; they were two Namibian Nationals and one Zambian National their particulars are as follow:

Maziezi Tekulo Solomon 26 years Namibian National, Manyuka Shakawile Iwana 29 years Namibian National and Mataba Siyemo Chester 29 years old Zambian National.” On reports that they could have been officers of the Namibian Police, he said “all of them had no connection with the Namibian police what so ever.” Kanguatjivi said their preliminary investigation have revealed that five Namibian Nationals and one Zambian National entered “the Park, three were shot dead two survived, one is still missing, and the alleged fire arm is not yet found, so is the alleged Ivory.”

“I am made to understand that there is discussion between our two governments regarding those issues,” he said. He admitted that it is not the first time that the Botswana security agents shot at Namibians suspected to be poachers “however I am not qualified nor do I have the mandate to answer questions pertaining to diplomatic matters between the two governments and as such I can only refer you to the Ministry of foreign Affairs.” Falling short of accusing Botswana of violating international laws, Kanguatjivi is of the view that “there are international laws that governed the use of deadly force adding that these laws also stipulate when and under which circumstances one can use deadly force.” He added that “these laws are applicable to the law enforcement agencies as well as the military.”

For his part, BDF spokesperson Colonel Teko Dikole said that a patrol team deployed in the Kwando area on anti-poaching operations shot and killed three poachers and that the matter has since been handed to Botswana Police Service for conclusion.

“BDF once again wishes to state that it is not aware of the nationality of the killed poachers. In addition it is imperative to once again underscore that speculating about the nationality and the modus operandi of the poachers will not in any way contribute towards enabling the BDF to accomplish its mission,” said Dikole. Asked if the BDF was implementing a shoot to kill policy that was adopted by government, Dikole said “the BDF wishes to emphatically state that its mission to defend Botswana’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and national interests is not in any way driven by “shoot to kill policy” that you aver has been pronounced by Hon Minister Tshekedi Khama.”

In a previous interview with Sunday Standard at the end of Africa Elephant Summit that was held in Gaborone, Environment Wildlife and Tourism Minister, Tshekedi Khama says the government has since adopted a “shoot-to-kill” policy against to poachers as a radical measure to curb the mass slaughter of elephants in the country. He said the shoot to kill policy has proved to be an effective deterrent as it sends a clear message to poachers that they would be shot dead on the spot when caught red handed. “These poachers break many laws when they enter our country.

Firstly they come armed with military weapons and secondly they enter the country at non gazetted points. Thirdly they engage in poaching which is illegal,’ said Khama. Asked if the move is not likely to create diplomatic tensions in the event that foreign poachers die during exchange of fire with anti poaching agents, Khama said neighbouring countries are aware of the “shoot and kill” stance that has been adopted by Botswana. “These people do not only shoot elephants but also other species. If they decide not to surrender and try to fight their way out, we will shoot them,” he said.


Read this week's paper