The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia, Professor Lazarus Hangula, has voiced his concern over the continued loss of Namibian lives at the hands of seemingly trigger-happy Botswana Defence Force (BDF) soldiers.
Hangula expressed his disappointment at Katima Mulilo yesterday during the opening of a two-day symposium on southern African border regions, adding that such misfortunes continue to happen despite the fact that Namibiahas cordial relations with Botswana, and at a time when SADC’s dream of closer regional integration is being realised.
“I am very much aware of and concerned about the continued unjustifiable shooting of Namibian civilians and innocent small children by a neighbouring country with which Namibia is at peace, has diplomatic relations and in a time of peaceful regional integration and development… for the simple reason that they go to the river,” Hangula told his audience of renowned academics from the region and beyond.
According to Prof Hangula the shooting of civilians is unjustifiable, as the livelihood of many indigenous Namibians depends on riverine food such as fish found in the shared river systems, that has now ironically become a death trap. He said common ground needs to be found by the two countries in order for communities to benefit from riverine resources without fear of reprisals.
He said the two countries should “debate the need to use and manage common natural resources peacefully and sustainably across national borders, as they are de facto part of what I call the uniting part of a border, on which the borderland communities could capitalise and benefit, in spite of their generally latent insecure situation.”
Hangula cautioned that the current situation has the potential to destabilise and disrupt peace in the region. “Inherent to the borders is the whole issue of peace and security, which may affect the whole region,” he warned.
Several Namibians have in the recent past lost their lives at the hands of BDF soldiers, who in turn defended their actions, saying it is a counter-measure to curb the poaching of Botswana’s wildlife.
Hangula was in agreement that natural resources such as wildlife and endangered species should be preserved, but was quick to note that indigenous communities should equally have access to vital resources.
“We need to protect the natural resources so as to ensure its sustainability and conservation for future generations. However, there’s a need to create access to natural endowment for the local communities. The creation of KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Park is tantamount to declaring such conservation areas as the common heritage of humankind, which is worth protecting,” he said.
The symposium which ends today seeks to tackle issues pertinent to southern African border regions. Many scholarly papers, including studies on the Zambezi Region – that borders four SADC countries – and the significance of the region during Namibia’s war of liberation will be presented.