New York City: A strong message of armed-to-the-tooth security personnel patrolling the game parks is what President Mokgweetsi Masisi sent at every opportunity the subject of the recently reported 87 killed elephants came up.
“As a word of caution, tell poachers that Botswana is not where they must go because they may not return alive. All our security forces are involved in the protection of the wildlife species including the prisons, the police, the army, and our intelligence security agencies over and above the anti-poaching rangers; and they are armed, legitimately and within the law. It is true that we are a leader in the conservation of wildlife, and have been in the longest time,” Masisi responded to a question during the roundtable discussion with Michelle D. Garvin of the Council on Foreign Relations.
He explained that contrary to the widespread reports mainly in the Western media that Botswana had disarmed its wildlife rangers, resulting in increased poaching of elephants for their ivory and tusk, the weapons that were inappropriately used by the ant-poaching squad in the department of wildlife were repossessed and deposited into the armoury under the care of the police commissioner as it is legal. However, the officers still are armed with the right weapons to use for their patrols.
“Elsewhere, I would have mentioned that Botswana is a nation that prides itself in upholding the rule of law. The rule of law obtains where there is respect for human life. I find it laughable that we would profess to be a stickler to the rule of law, and yet enable our anti-poaching officers to carry dangerous weapons that they could use to fire at alleged poachers. If they killed such people, as the government, we would not have a leg to stand on because they were using weapons they shouldn’t be in possession of in the first place. AK47 guns belong to the army and not even our police carry them. These arms are prescribed under the constitution that we follow to the letter. Should the anti-poaching officers need them, they will have to document and follow due process. So, when the news broke about poached elephants and statements linking them to the disarmament of the anti-poaching unit, we were shocked,” he explained.
Masisi said the seriousness with which they treated the reports caused the government to invite Mike Chase to join the delegation that flew across the area where the 87 elephants were shot and their tusks removed.
“On the first day, we discovered 10 elephant carcass and the next day only nine. We combed the whole area and nothing could give us greater than 19 elephant carcass. This was a shocker ÔÇô the biggest hoax of the 21st century. Rest assured that not in Botswana will poachers have a field day; they may not come back, please warn them,” Masisi stated.
Earlier in the week when addressing Batswana living in the United States, Masisi said that there was a deliberate ploy to engage in malicious campaign to bring the country’s image into disrepute, but whatever motivations by those involved, he remained unfazed to stick to living by the values that underpin democracy, consulting with the people and seeking advice that would add value to his leadership.
“As we all know, all our security apparatus are involved in wildlife conservation ÔÇô we are the only country I know that has redeployed its security forces to make sure that the animals are protected. But we don’t protect animals at the expense of human life, citizens come first in my administration, and I will not leave my people behind and talk animal rights. I will consult with the communities where these animals coexist with the view to address the issue of animal-human conflict. I will listen to their concerns and appropriate measures will be taken. We are a democracy that is built on consultation from time immemorial. But as in every campaign, this one was not different ÔÇô the truth was the first casualty,” he stated.