NEIGHBOURLINESS: Botswana’s communication minister Thulagano Segokgo (right) with his Namibian counterpart, Peya Mushelenga. 
PHOTO: TOIVO NDJEBELA
NEIGHBOURLINESS: Botswana’s communication minister Thulagano Segokgo (right) with his Namibian counterpart, Peya Mushelenga. PHOTO: TOIVO NDJEBELA

Borders: Botswana 'wants peace' with Namibia

STAFF REPORTER
Botswana’s communication minister Thulagano Segokgo says his country’s history of resolving its border disputes with Namibia amicably can serve as a springboard for dealing with similar quarrels in the future.

This is amid sporadic incidents of alleged harassment of Namibians by the neighbouring country’s armed forces.

The 2020 brutal killing of three brothers and their Zambian cousin by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) along the Chobe River heightened tension between the two countries and saw demonstrations by mostly residents of the Zambezi Region.

A court in Kasane, Botswana, ruled in favour of BDF, absolving it from gross negligence and liability for criminal litigation in the brutal killings, after a Namibian pressure group sought to sue Botswana’s military.

Segokgo, speaking on The Agenda, said his country does not seek trouble with Namibia, and alluded to the peaceful manner in which past differences were handled.

Full-blown conflicts

Namibia and Botswana went head-to-head over Sedudu Island, also known as Kasikili, but the territorial dispute was resolved by a 1999 ruling of the International Court of Justice, which ruled in Botswana’s favour.

“Yes, we have had in the past differences over our border boundaries, which we resolved amicably – very characteristic of the two nations as democratic and lawful states,” Segokgo said.

“There’s been incidents that occurred in the past where there was exchange between our defence force and poachers, as they put it, but our heads of state have held discussions and these matters have been dealt with.”

Exacerbating matters was a border treaty signed on 5 February 2018 by President Hage Geingob and former Botswana president Ian Khama, which saw another island - Situngu – ceded to Botswana.

Some tribal chiefs in the Zambezi Region, including the leaders of the Mafwe and Mayeyi traditional authorities, have rejected the legality of the treaty, which they say was concluded without their consent.

A 2021 investigation into the treaty by the Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs concluded that the deal could lead to potential conflicts and skirmishes between the two countries.

“These little cases may lead to full-blown conflicts, eventually spilling into civil wars and cross-border conflicts,” the committee’s report read.

Solid

But Segokgo said his country only wants a peaceful co-existence with its western neighbour.

“We don’t seek to have any posture that is harmful or detrimental towards Namibia – quite the contrary,” he said in Swakopmund, where he visited various sites with his Namibian counterpart, Peya Mushelenga.

“The relationship between our two heads of state [Geingob and current Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi] is really solid and, as ministers, we are taking a cue from them to ensure we keep relations solid.”

He added: “The reality is that along our borders, there are just one people. They are interacting, inter-marrying... there are relatives across the border. So, we can’t seek to fight our own people. We seek nothing but the prosperity of both our countries”.

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Namibian Sun 2024-07-17

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