11 April 2019

Botswana: BDF Commemorates 42nd Anniversary

Gaborone — Multitudes of Batswana are expected to join the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as the men and women in uniform reflect on the history of their existence.

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who will be marking his first anniversary as Commander-in-Chief, is expected to be part of the main event dubbed BDF Day at the National Stadium tomorrow (April 13).

As always, the stadium is expected to be filled to the brim as the BDF showcases its military might as well as state of the art hardware and technology.

"For a military establishment that had to start from scratch, unlike some of its sister military establishments in the region, which were founded on existing and well advanced military structures, the BDF takes pride from its humble beginnings to becoming one of the professional military establishments that were purely home grown", Professor Dan Henk of the Department of Leadership & Ethics of the US Air War College who has written extensively about African militaries described the BDF.

At the time of its formation, the BDF prevailed over challenges in the midst of apartheid regimes in the sub Saharan region in the 1980s.

The indigenous people were involved in liberation struggles against colonisers in neighbouring countries.

At the centre of these countries was Botswana, a landlocked country, which had just gained independence from Britain in 1966.

At the time there was relative peace in the country but the liberation struggles were felt here.

Down south, a bitter struggle against the oppressive apartheid regime was raging in South Africa, while on the eastern and northern borders Zimbabwe (South Rhodesia) and Zambia (North Rhodesia) were involved in decolonisation struggles of their own.

To the west, Namibia under the rule of South Africa's apartheid regime, was also fighting a liberation struggle.

All these upheavals posed a real security threat to Botswana, which at the time, did not have a military force but only depended on a small paramilitary Police Mobile Unit (PMU).

Eleven years after independence, the BDF was formed from the PMU and had the late Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe as its first commander.

The immediate past President, Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama then a 24-year-old brigadier, became its deputy commander.

Perhaps the most fatal incident in the history of the organisation was the infamous Lesoma ambush.

In February 27, 1978, 15 members of the year old inexperienced BDF met their demise during an ambush by the then Rhodesian Armed Forces at the Lesoma Sand Ridge.

The brave soldiers' ultimate sacrifice happened in the midst of the regional turmoil of the Zimbabwean Chimurenga war.

The Lesoma incident is still recalled and commemorated as Fallen Heroes Day.

BDF had been a regular contributor to the United Nations Missions.

In its 42 years of existence, the BDF effectively restored law and order where internal security and peace were threatened.

In December 1992, Lt Colonel Thulaganyo Masisi led the first ever external mission of the BDF, when his contingent of 300 flew into Somalia to be part of the UN peacekeeping and humanitarian mission.

Codenamed Operation Restore Hope, the UN military outfit included forces from the US and Britain amongst others.

From 1993 to 1994, a team of BDF officers participated in a UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda as observers.

In the same period, BDF took part in a peacekeeping mission in Mozambique.

The BDF also took part in the SADC military intervention in Lesotho in 1998.

The last decade (2007-2017) saw BDF establish a Defence Command and Staff College, adopt a Brigade Grouping structure, enroll female non-commissioned officers and introduce special entrant officer cadet programme.

The BDF Day afforded the force and the nation at large an opportunity to reflect the force's past operations and future plans.

Through numerous displays like mock battles, dog displays and obstacles, BDF demonstrate that they were not spared from ravages of illicit regimes in some war torn nations.

Other entertaining events lined up for tomorrow included the civilian participation drill, assault course, BDF Day presentation and horse display.

Source : BOPA

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