The ease with which one sees Botswana’s non-military government department officials carrying arms have looked to the young ones like that is the way to go; remember child soldiers and killers in Rwanda and elsewhere on the continent.
The Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife has procured at least two hundred 9mm pistols for its anti-poaching unit joining the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) in the competition for weapon supremacy.
It looks like Kgosi and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) headed by former BDF Deputy Commander Oitisitswe Tiroyamodimo are planning to recruit members of the BDF Special Forces, creating shadowy paramilitary forces.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Goitseone Madikwe told Sunday Standard that “due to the need to protect the security of our operations, in particular our anti-poaching, we will not be able to respond to your questions.”
She added that: “We would like to indicate that the Ministry’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks does have firearms and has had firearms and used them since the setting up of the game unit more than 50 years ago.”
Security insiders are, however, questioning how the ministry’s officers are going to use the guns because the law does not allow them to do so since they are civilians.
A source claimed that to deal with such the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama intends to approach Cabinet and make a proposal that officers of the Department of Wildlife be recognised as security agents like Botswana Police so that they could carry guns.
BDF officers who accompany police officers and those from department of Wildlife on patrols are armed because they operate under statutory provisions of the BDF Act. It is also understood that the rules of operation for the BDF and the police are dissimilar.
A research commissioned to “analyse the operations of the BDF’s contribution in the anti-poaching operations” compiled by senior BDF officers states that “lack of comprehensive synergy amongst agencies is still a challenge to anti-poaching operation”.
The report recommends clear guidelines on the role of each stakeholder.
The report further raises questions on the rules of engagement. According to the documents, the operation uses BDF order of opening fire as a guideline to rules of engagement.
“The operation is complex and it involves curbing of both subsistence and commercial poaching. Therefore the challenge is how to differentiate local from foreign poachers as they may react in a similar manner,” reads the report.