Namibia has actively engaged Botswana to find common ground on the fatal shooting of several Namibian citizens along the border by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).
The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement to appease concerns by Namibians who say government is not doing enough to address the fatal shootings.
The fatal shootings have attracted widespread condemnation from all quarters of the Namibian society that is not happy with the heavy handedness of BDF soldiers in tackling those they suspect of illegally hunting their wildlife. Joining the growing chorus of criticism recently was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia, Professor Lazarus Hangula, who stated that the continued loss of Namibian lives at the hands of BDF soldiers, even while Namibia has cordial relations with Botswana, and at a time when the dream of closer SADC integration is being realised, is worrisome.
What seems to have agitated Namibians even further is the perceived lack of action from the Namibian government.
However, in a press release signed by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, Ambassador Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, she said Namibia is actively engaging Botswana on the matter.
“The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwa) has been in contact with her counterpart in Botswana. Moreover, the government of Namibia remains actively engaged with the government of Botswana through diplomatic channels with the purpose of finding a lasting solution and in order to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents,” stated Ashipala-Musavyi.
The statement further gave the assurance on a solution, given the bond between the two countries, adding that the deaths of Namibians at the hands of the BDF could have been avoided.
“Given the proven record of political will existing between the leaders of our two countries, the abiding friendship and cultural affinity between our peoples, we are confident that a lasting solution shall be found to this vexing problem that has resulted in avoidable deaths of innocent Namibians,” read Ashipala-Musavyi’s statement.
The two countries have had simmering tension emanating from territorial disputes before, particularly over islands that are located adjacent to the game rich Chobe National Park.
In 2012 relations between the two countries almost completely soured following the killing of two Namibians, suspected of being poachers, by the BDF at Nakabolelwa, another area bordering the two countries.
As recently as May this year two more Namibians were shot dead by the BDF close to Kongola.
Zambezi Youth Forum leader John Ntemwa has in the past said 30 Namibians have so far been killed by the BDF. Many Namibians feel Botswana soldiers are trigger-happy and have questioned the overzealous manner in which they handle the suspected cases of poaching by shooting suspects.
BDF on the other hand has rigorously defended its actions stating it is a counter-measure to curb increasing poaching of their wildlife.
Chobe National Park has a high concentration of elephants and is home to hundreds of thousands of other game and is adjacent to Namibian villages along the Chobe River.
Many villagers along the border depend on this shared river system for their daily livelihood.