Horrific, but inevitable

14 June 2019 | Columns

Incidences of assaults by military personnel on civilians have been widely reported in the mainstream media and on social media over the last couple of months.

Many members of the public have come out complaining about unprovoked assaults by Namibian soldiers who are a part of joint crime-prevention operations with the police. In their defence, the NDF members either claimed they were the ones being assaulted or were being hindered in the execution of their duties. Later, evidence of army brutality emerged after a former journalist sustained serious injuries, including a cracked skull, when she was assaulted by NDF soldiers during an Operation Hornkranz raid on a bar in Katutura in April. This shocking incident was condemned by all and sundry, including the commander-in-chief of the NDF, President Hage Geingob. The ministry of defence also released a statement, saying it was shocked by reports of brutality, reportedly being perpetrated by members of the NDF. Despite the widespread outrage and clamouring to send the army back to its bases, another government-backed operation dubbed Kalahari Desert was commissioned to replace Hornkranz. Operation Kalahari Desert has now claimed the life of a taxi driver who was reportedly shot dead by a soldier while attempting to avoid a roadblock manned by both NDF and police officers in Greenwell Matongo. We have in the past argued against the deployment of soldiers for the mere fact they are not trained in policing, but for deadly military situations. Maintaining law and order should never be the job of the army. This is the job of the police and the assistance of the army is only required in exceptional circumstances. Crime operations are necessary and there is no doubt about that. However, the army is an indiscriminate broadsword, while crime often needs an incisive and targeted scalpel. It remains shocking that the government of the day remains hell-bent on releasing its military on ordinary civilians. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

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