Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi yesterday dismissed any notion that his country and Namibia have border disputes, amid regular reports of Namibians often shot dead by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) soldiers on suspicion they went into that country to poach.
Masisi, who was on a one-day working visit to Namibia and paid a courtesy call on President Hage Geingob at State House yesterday, said Botswana has no border tensions with Namibia as a country nor its citizens.
He was, however, quick to remind poachers crossing into his country that they would face the full wrath of the law.
“The BDF (Botswana Defence Force), including our wildlife anti-poaching department, is very protective over our species in Botswana. We have laws that regulate how we interact with certain species within Botswana,” he said.
“When they cross the border as they often do without visas or passports, its not our business. But once they come into Botswana, Botswana laws apply consistent with the norms of territorial integrity,” the tough-talking Masisi said, unapologetically.
Botswana has a shoot-to-kill policy with regard to poachers found in its territory.
Namibians have expressed grave concern about this shoot-to-kill policy, saying government was not doing enough to address the fatal shootings, especially during 2015 when many killings took place.
“I don’t know whether there are tensions between the poachers and the animals which I suspect might be the case. But both the Namibian and Botswana Defence Forces are there to assure each of our countries that their animal species are protected,” Masisi told journalists at State House yesterday.
On his side, President Geingob also denied knowledge of any tensions that exist between the two countries.
“I don’t know about the tensions. We signed a border treaty to allow the movement of the people. But both sides have to defend their territories. I think ‘tension’ is too strong a word,” Geingob remarked.
In February, Geingob and former Botswana president, Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who was in Namibia on a two-day state visit, signed a historic boundary treaty which clearly marks the borders between the two countries.
Namibia’s defence minister Penda ya Ndakolo assured the nation that the signed historic boundary treaty will see an end to any deadly border disputes between Namibia and Botswana.
During 2015, some Namibians suspected of being ivory poachers were allegedly shot and killed close to the Botswana border by the BDF.
Consequently, Namibia took a bold decision to actively engage Botswana to find common ground on the fatal shootings by members of the BDF.
During his visit, Khama said the signed treaty is to reaffirm common boundary and to cooperate on trans-boundary issues between the two countries.
In the past, Khama said the wrangling was along the northern border on the Zambezi Region where there are many wetlands.