These kinds of sensibilities in line with our Constitution and moral rectitude should inform our interaction with other states, weak or powerful, especially when it comes to protecting our citizens. The ‘sovereignty’ cop-out tendency that our government and many African states adopt when dealing with difficult situations should not be tolerated.
As a country that stands on the basis of the rule of law and thus eschews extrajudicial killings, Namibian authorities should long ago have put Botswana [specifically its military] on terms that we would not countenance killings of citizens without due process of the law (Botswana applies the death penalty), even when they are suspected to have committed the most heinous of crimes.
The killing of two Namibians, Richard Munguni Siyauya (36) and Bryana Nyambe Nyambe (age not given) who were suspected of poaching in the Chobe National Park by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) on July 17, is the latest reminder of a practice that has been going on for a long time. Too many Namibians have died or were injured by the BDF over the years in instances that point to their shoot to kill on the spot approach to law enforcement.
The Namibian government has not helped the situation by seemingly taking an indifferent stance towards the actions of our eastern neighbours. Had this matter been taken more seriously earlier we would have witnessed fewer deaths and more fair trials for the suspects.
And when our government takes up a case, as it has done with the latest killings, it comes across as making a feeble complaint rather than acting with conviction to send a clear message about a process Namibia fundamentally disagrees with.
Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Namibian Police sounded like terrified children requesting an audience with a bully instead of dealing with an equal partner to solve problems.
On Monday, the Namibian Police were scheduled to meet their Botswana counterparts, and according to our chief of the police, Sebastian Ndeitunga. “I sense some reluctance on the side of the Botswana police to cooperate with us in the investigation.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a message to Botswana through our neighbour’s diplomatic representatives that it did not condone poaching but called for restraint when using force. Botswana should be told to sit down and agree to universal justice in dealing with what they may regard as law-breaking Namibians.
It is not yet clear how Nyambe and Siyauya, from a village in Ngoma, Caprivi, were killed, though Nyambe, who managed to crawl onto the Namibian side of the border was found with a bullet wound in the head. Our police appear to suspect that BDF were aggressive in using maximum force. And the reluctance by Botswana to help clarify this incident feeds into a pattern that needs to be broken.
Protecting their wildlife and tourism might be a paramount objective, but this applies to Namibia too. Whatever actions are taken should follow agreed procedures.
The two countries may have distinct borders but ordinary citizens across different borders of Africa are too closely related for authorities to simply pretend that the colonial borders have done away with centuries-old family relations and migration.
Besides, with the lip-service politicians in SADC (Southern African Development Community) pay towards regional integration, officials of the two countries should be working closely together. And like with Angola and Zambia, Namibia should seek ease of movement with Botswana for their citizens.
The Namibian government needs to take a tougher stance in protecting its citizens to ensure that they get fair treatment and that due process of the law is followed. That is not going to happen by treating Botswana with ‘kid-gloves’. Authorities should demand the same human rights treatment for their citizens from Botswana as are guaranteed within Namibian borders. And for justice to be done is not asking too much.