15 August 2012

Namibia: Investigation Into BDF Shootings

THE simmering border tension between Namibia and Botswana has intensified over the past weeks following the shooting of two Namibians by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) for allegedly poaching in the Chobe National Park on July 17.

In order to prevent a diplomatic brawl and to save both countries from an international embarrassment, the two governments have decided to launch a joint investigation into the incident to allay fears that the shooting was a deliberate act of violence against the Namibian nationals.

Shooting incidents of this nature by the BDF are nothing new, and date back as far as October 1984 when Botswana soldiers fired on a South African Defence Force (SADF) unit in a boat in the southern channel at Kasikili Island. This incident precipitated the Kasikili-Sedudu dispute which landed in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague 12 years later.

Several shooting incidents involving the BDF have occurred since then, even after Namibia's independence, and poaching is blamed.

The last straw for the Namibian government was the killing of Richard Munguni Siyauya (36) and Bryana Nyambe Nyambe (age unknown), residents of Nakabolelwa village in the Ngoma area of the Caprivi Region, after they were allegedly found poaching in the Chobe National Park on July 17.

Nyambe was found to have a bullet wound to his head, and according to residents of the area this indicated that there was an intention to shoot to kill.

Botswana's High Commissioner to Namibia, Gobopang Duke Lefhoko, was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 7 to explain the circumstances surrounding the shooting incident.

Lefhoko informed the ministry that the Botswana and Namibian police were jointly investigating the incident.

A postmortem of Nyambe was done in Windhoek, while Siyauya, whose body was found on the Botswana side of the border, was autopsied in that country.

According to Police Chief Sebastian Ndeitunga, a Namibian police officer was present at the postmortem held in Botswana but was not allowed to take photos of the body.

On Monday the Namibian team and their Botswana counterparts should have met again to continue with the investigation, but according to Ndeitunga the Botswana police went to Gaborone instead.

"I sense some reluctancy on the side of the Botswana police to cooperate with us in the investigation, which I do not like," Ndeitunga told The Namibian.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has urged the Botswana authorities to cooperate fully with the Namibian police as they carry out the joint investigation.

"The ministry underscored that while the two countries do not condone poaching, it is important that both sides exercise maximum restraint to avoid loss of lives and to ensure that the culprits are arrested and brought to justice," Foreign Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary Veiccoh Nghiwete said in a press release.

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