Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Botswana ponders national security strategy as political dynamics intensify

Botswana wakes up to an imminent national security threat and the country is not taking chances.

Government has, at the instance of President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, started a process involving all leaders of strategic departments in government and organisations, to develop a National Security Strategy (NSS) in anticipation of any potential threat.

Whilst details of the latest of meetings working on the formulation of the strategy remain scanty, Government has played down speculation that the initiative was directly prompted by fear of possible degeneration in Botswana’s politics.

“In fact I must hasten at the outset to clarify that when we talk of a NSS, we are not confined to military or other similar security matters in the technical context,” explained Matshidiso Bokole, Permanent Secretary (P.S.) at the Ministry of Defense Justice and Security (MDJS).

She added: “Instead we are talking about Botswana’s readiness and capability in terms of being able to mitigate or address some of the challenges that the country faces such as violent and intrusive crime, HIV/AIDS, Non-Communicable Diseases and high unemployment as well as human-wildlife conflict.”

Poaching, water and electricity shortage were also cited alongside inadequate food supply and corruption by Bokole, as some of the elements considered in  her version of national security as contrasted with the military oriented interpretation as would commonly be triggered by mention of the term, “security”.

To support her “less scary” version of security, the PS asserted that the idea was to come up with a multi-sectoral and Whole-of-Government approach. In that way stakeholder organizations such as the Water Affairs Department, Power and Energy suppliers as well as disciplined forces would conceive their strategic mandates in the context of the broader national security considerations.

Bokole argued rhetorically: “For example in light of the problem of growing youth unemployment, the NSS would be instructive in terms of how to come up with workable initiatives and interventions to reduce unemployment; there is water shortage, what can we do to ensure security/sufficiency in that regard? What are the most deserving high impact priorities that should be given more resources in order to make Botswana more prosperous?”

Ambassador Lapologang Saisar Lekoa, added that a NSS helps to ensure unity of effort across the government to provides a framework for everyone to work towards the same priorities established by the country’s leadership.

“The NSS provides a common framework and streamlines the use of scarce resources to achieve National interests and strategic objectives. With a clear understanding of our National interests, we can determine what is important to our country and where we can focus our resources and or instruments of power,” Lekoa explained.

Bokole hinted that it was in demonstration of the highest political commitment to this holistic conception of security that the President has tasked her to facilitate this initiative as a build up to the development of a National Security Strategy for Botswana.

In that context, the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security (MDJS) then enlisted the services of a retired master Spy in the name of Professor Laurence McCabe of the National Security Decision Making Department Faculty of the Naval War College of United States of America (USA), to facilitate the process.

One of the things that apparently emerged is that McCabe has categorically stated and emphasized in the course of his interactions with the MDJS and Heads of Strategic departments is that, the process of developing an NSS or undertaking Security Sector Reforms must of necessity take “A-Whole government” approach.

The Sunday Standard has been able to establish authoritatively that some of the items in the agenda which the media was not allowed to cover, included; Assessment of the Security situation in the country, exploring the NSS components and relook of the roles of the different players under the title, Inter-Agency Environment.

The state of Botswana’s National interests in a Globalized World and presenting challenges were examined as was ways of adapting the outcomes of the Security Assessment to the Botswana NSS all occupied a good part of the two day engagement early last week at Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC).

In June 2008 the Botswana government appointed a team of professionals to carry out a National Security Strategy Review (NSSR) exercise. Recommendations were made to establish the National Security Council (NSC), appoint the National Security Advisor and a Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

In the same vein it was recommended that the National Security Act was recommended for review and amendment.

However, according to Bokole, other recommendations could not be effected at the time due to an array of constraints to include the review of enabling legislation.

Following up on the recommendations ten years later, Lekoa posited, “The country’s leadership has since directed that NSS formulation is now a priority, and it is for this reason that MDJS found it fit to seek expertise from Professor McCabe to come and assist us to refocus our national security dialogue that would hopefully result in the development of a documented NSS.”

The first meeting was held in March which targeted Permanent Secretaries and Director-Generals as well as their equivalent in positions from equally strategic organizations. The second in April this year in Gaborone at the behest of the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies targeting Southern and Central African countries.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper