Botswana and Namibia last Wednesday issued a joint statement calling for citizens to remain calm and patient after the fatal shooting in November of three Namibian and one Zambian national by the Botswana Defence Force.
In the statement issued by the two heads of state, the two sides underscored the deepening bilateral relations and conveyed their commitment to resolving the matter expeditiously and amicably. A joint investigation has been concluded and is under consideration by both governments, it said. The statement further said they both envisaged and desired an incident-free future and that the two sides would collaboratively make efforts to avert any recurrence of similar incidents.
The killing of the four, suspected by the Botswana side to be poachers has sparked tensions between the two African neighbours, with Namibian citizens mounting protests. Some nearly turned violent, causing damage to property and disruption of cross-border movement. The families of the deceased told the media that they were fishermen and were crossing into the Botswana side of the Chobe River to fish. Residents along the border have long relied on the river for their livelihood.
Over recent years, poaching incidents have escalated on the Botswana side, and the authorities have consequently deployed anti-poaching units from the army to patrol the area. Several fatal shootings have occurred between the army and poachers. Earlier this year, one army officer was fatally shot.
Following the killing of the Namibians and Zambian, Namibian leader, Hage Geingob told the media he had ‘long discussions’ with President Mokgweetsi Masisi, following the shooting of the four Namibians on Sedudu Island.
“We are very close with President Masisi, and we had long discussions,” Geingob said in a briefing shared online by The Namibian newspaper.
“He has expressed his regret for the lives that have been lost and he has agreed to joint investigations.”
Geingob added: “What cannot be denied is that the people were in Botswana territory and it was very late at about 11 pm. So what were you doing at that time?
“Also, a gunshot was heard then a bull, buffalo or whatever.
“That’s the situation for now.”
The BDF confirmed shooting the quartet, who they encountered at around 11 pm in the Sedudu area of the Chobe River.
“The incident involved contact with a syndicate of poachers believed to be part of a network responsible for cross border organised poaching,” a BDF statement read.
The BDF added that there had been an ‘alarming’ surge of organised poaching of rhinos and elephants in the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park areas.
BDF press release RE: Anti-poaching operation incident
In its mission of defending Botswana’s Territorial Integrity, Sovereignty and National Interests, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) informs the public about an incident between members of the BDF and poachers, which resulted in four poachers being killed. The incident, which happened on 5 November 2020 at around 2300 hours in the Sedudu area (Southern Channel of Chobe River), involved contact with a syndicate of poachers believed to be part of a network responsible for cross border organised poaching.
The matter has been handed over to relevant investigating agencies. As previously stated, there is an alarming surge of organised poaching of rhinoceros and elephants, especially in the western part of the country (Okavango Delta and in the Chobe National Park).
Tebo Kacho Dikole, Colonel
For/COMMANDER, BOTSWANA DEFENCE FORCE HEADQUARTERS
Sources: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-12/31/c_139632326.htm & https://www.mmegi.bw/index.php?aid=87711&dir=2020/november/10 & BWGovernment Facebook page