Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Did Botswana help sustain Savimbi?

Startling evidence has surfaced suggesting that Botswana provided a strategic point for the supply of fuel, war requisites and other providences to the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), during the Angolan conflict.

The possibility of Angolan blood diamonds also being smuggled into Botswana for ultimate channeling into the international markets was suggested by credible media sources at the time.

A Panel of Experts, in which Botswana Defence Force (BDF) current Deputy Commander, Major General Oitsile Tiroyamodimo then a Colonel served as Vice Chairman, mentioned Botswana’s role in a report they made to the UN Security Council, Sanctions Committee.

Reporting to the Sanctions Committee about Botswana’s contribution, the Panel of Experts, which was chaired by Ambassador Anders Mollander of Sweden said, “The Government of the United Kingdom also provided information on the possibility that in April 1999 UNITA was able to buy fuel commercially in Gaborone and that this fuel was then transported to Andulo by plane.”

Mollander stated in a letter dated 28 February, 2000 addressed to the Sanctions Committee headed by Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada, that the Panel of Experts was informed that the aircraft, which delivered fuel would usually file flight plans for Francistown, only to fly instead from Gaborone to Andulo.

The Sanctions Committee was established by the UN Security Council under the stewardship of Fowler, in accordance with the Council Resolution 864 (1993) concerning the situation in Angola. The Sanctions Committee then appointed the Panel of Experts, Chaired by Mollander, with Tiroyamodimo as his Vice while Zimbabwe’s Stanlake Samkange served as Rapporteur.

The panel told the UN that due to late receipt, it was unable to investigate the allegations submitted by the UK Government.

The publication of the details relating to Botswana’s part in the UNITA conflict did not go down well with Botswana.

As a result, “On 24 February 2000, the Government of Botswana wrote to inform the Chairman of the Sanctions Committee that an investigation had been launched into these allegations, and expressed regret that the information had not been provided to the Government of Botswana prior to being made public,” reported Mollander.

The Panel was also informed that the fuel was paid for using a South African bank account into which funds had been placed for this purpose, and that a warehouse in Gaborone had been used to store fuel and other supplies for UNITA.

Ross Sanoto, Director of Defence, Security and Justice in the Office of the President said he could not find files relating to the issue. He, however, confirmed that the Angolan Government had queried in the past about Botswana’s possible granting of UNITA a haven to attack her from Botswana’s airspace.

“But no substantial evidence in that regard has ever been advanced,” posited Sanoto.
Further detailed response is still being awaited from the relevant Government officials for confirmation or otherwise of the alleged extent of Botswana’s involvement to assist UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi.

What is clear, though, is that for many years the Government of Angola has given Botswana a cold shoulder, diplomatically.

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