New Era (Windhoek)

20 July 2012

Namibia: BDF Kills Two Namibian Poachers

Katima Mulilo — Two Namibian citizens were shot and killed by seemingly 'trigger-happy' members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) after they crossed into Botswana on an illegal and ill-fated nocturnal hunting expedition at around midnight on Tuesday.

The two victims, residents of the villages of Nakabolelwa and Kabulabula bordering the game-rich Chobe National Park some 80 kilometres east of Katima Mulilo, have been identified as Munguni Siyanga Richard (36) and Nyambe Nyambe, whose age is not yet known.

According to police spokesperson, Warrant-Officer Geoffrey Samunzala, one of the corpses, although it is not clear which of the two, is in a mortuary at Kasane, while the other is still missing.

It is suspected that the missing body might still be in the Chobe River, which separates Namibia from Botswana and along which many Namibians have been shot and killed in similar fashion in the past for alleged poaching.

The Chobe National Park has a high concentration of elephants and is home to hundreds of thousands of other game species such as lion, zebra, giraffe, eland and buffalo.

"According to a report we received, one body is in Kasane and another one is still missing. We are busy conducting a joint police operation in trying to locate the other body and also to investigate. As for now, we are still not sure whose body is in Kasane of the two, until such time that we positively identify the body," confirmed Warrant-Officer Samunzala.

Samunzala further said that the names of the deceased were provided by relatives who are missing the two men. "These names were only provided by family members. Until such time that we positively identify the victims and post-mortems are done, we can only speculate for now," said Samunzala.

The incident happened at Nakabolelwa where the two are suspected to have crossed into Botswana by dugout canoe to engage in nighttime hunting under the cover of darkness.

Details were sketchy as to whether the two were caught with any game, but two elephant tasks and two rifles and a knife were found in their possession, according to a police report provided to New Era. It is also suspected that the man whose body is missing ran towards the Chobe River after being spotted before he was shot and killed.

There is speculation that his body may have been carried further downstream by the river. Samunzala appealed to residents living along the Chobe River in the Caprivi Region to stop illegal hunting activities since they may result in unnecessary loss of life.

Poaching is at times so rife that even a senior manager in the area was once the subject of a criminal inquiry after he failed to give a plausible explanation for having carcasses of buffalo in his possession.

"We want to appeal to our people to stop engaging in illegal activities, especially poaching. It is not allowed and people should stop crossing into other countries illegally, as this may result in unnecessary loss of life. People's lives are more important than poaching," warned Samunzala.

Acting Caprivi Governor, Warden Simushi, was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press since he was still being brought up to speed by the police on the tragic shooting.

Nakabolelwa, a village in the Kabbe Constituency of the Caprivi Region, is one of many villages that border Botswana along the shared Chobe River, which serves as the frontier between the two countries.

The Chobe River is a resource from which many residents and wild animals, alike, draw their livelihood.

Although the sentiment is no longer as prevalent as it was before, in the past there had been a general feeling among residents of villages bordering Botswana that the Botswana Defence Force is "trigger happy" and shoots people at random without regard to life.

Many residents are of the opinion that the Botswana government values wildlife more than it does human lives. Botswana had then maintained that Namibians were crossing into its territory illegally for poaching.

Repeated attempts to get comment from the Botswana High Commission in Windhoek proved futile as diplomats at the Windhoek office failed to respond to inquiries from New Era.

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