Muvangua plays down tension with Botswana

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Windhoek

Namibia is not on the verge of a diplomatic fallout with Botswana over perpetual arrests, and sometimes shooting, of Namibians by that country’s armed forces – Namibia’s diplomat to Gaborone said this week.

Mbapeua Muvangua was reacting to the latest incident last weekend when about 14 Namibians were captured by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) over suspected illegal fishing at Maunga, in the Kapani area of the Zambezi Region.

The incident angered many Namibians, some of whom blamed government for supposedly showing little, if any, willingness to engage with its Botswana counterparts over habitual borderline confrontations.

But Muvangua, a former chief of protocol at State House, believes relations between the two nations are far from being acrimonious, saying there is simply confusion over border demarcations between the two countries.

“It all boils down to borderline confusion. Many Namibians believe they are fishing on the Namibian side of the border while the people in Botswana believe this is taking place on their territory,”Muvangua told New Era from Botswana this week.

He said he has been trying to secure an appointment with officials from the Botswana foreign affairs ministry to discuss possible solutions to the escalating confrontations, but is yet to be granted an audience.

The Namibian high commissioner however confirmed that he has met with the Botswana chief of police, with whom he discussed the matter.

“The commissioner of police gave me a warm welcome, but you must remember that these incidences involve BDF and not the police.”

He warned, however, that in order to arrest the growing confrontations, the principals of the Joint Commission of Co-operation between Namibia and Botswana must work towards finding a solution to the problem.

“In general, the BDF and NDF (Namibia Defence Force) have a good relationship. They must do more joint patrols along the border. This would help address some misconceptions.”

“The local leaders of communities along the borders must also educate their subjects about where each country’s territory starts. They must also drive home the message that entering a foreign country through undesignated entry points is illegal and dangerous,” the former State House aide said.

The two nations have maintained cordial relations despite a spat in the 1990s over what Botswana called Sedudu Island, which in Namibia was referred to as Kasikili Island.

The two countries each claimed the island was part of its territory, but the International Court of Justice ruled in 1999 that it belongs to Botswana.

While relations between Windhoek and Gaborone remain friendly, many residents of Namibia’s Zambezi Region believe government is doing little in protecting them against the trigger-happy BDF.

The BDF has on numerous occasions shot, sometimes fatally, Namibians who are suspected of illegally poaching on Botswana soil.

Mathlaba Phiri, Botswana’s deputy high commissioner to Namibia, promised to revert back to this reporter for comment but did not do so.

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