Security is the core concept in Security Studies and it also lies at the centre of international relations.
Security studies include security threats ranging from pandemics, environmental degradation and transnational criminal organisations to more traditional security concerns such as weapons of mass destruction and interstate conflict. Traditionally, the state has been the primary entity to be secured, what is known as referent object in security matters and it has sought security through military might.
Therefore stressing international and national security, most of the early scholars of security define it as preventing nationsstates from threat attacks and external aggression. When the Botswana Defence Force was formed in 1977, the core aim of its formation was to protect the country from external aggression as the Southern African region was engulfed in political bushfires (aggressive apartheid state of South Africa, Liberation war against a minority white governments in Zimbabwe and Namibia, civil wars in Mozambique and Angola). The threats that Botswana faced at that time were of traditional nature of security as it was evidenced by numerous raids in her territory by South African and Rhodesian forces.
This old ealist view of security derived from the Cold War era adopted by Botswana at the time viewed security as primarily the possession of a strong military as deterrence to external threats and to ensure law and order in the society.
Normally proponents of this realist thinking, such as Hans Morgenthau see threats to state security essentially in the realm of the military and the security forces. Thus to prevent threats to the peace and security of Botswana as a sovereign state, policy makers at that time rightly felt the need to have a strong military armament as a means of deterrence and to ensure victory where offensive and defence operations become inevitable. Following the end of the Cold War and the end of uncertainty that came with it, many academics such as Barry Buzan saw security as essentially under conceptualised. The aggressive and volatile political climate that characterised Southern Africa changed dramatically with the independence of Zimbabwe (1980), the collapse of apartheid in South Africa (1994), the independence of Namibia (1989) and the relative calm in war torn countries such as Mozambique and Angola. The growth in strength of SADC entrenched deep economic ties and cooperation between states in the SADC region.
This has motivated the critics of the traditional ealist state-centric security school of thought to criticise this orthodox security concept for its inward looking realist view, which states that the nation state act as referent object of security and that their motivation is the appropriation of military power, rather than the pursuit of ideals and ethics. Critics of the traditional security view further assert that policies within this state centric view are intended to meet the requirement of nation states, as well as its institutions and values, rather than the interests of individuals or mankind as a whole. They intellectually reason that the post-Cold War drastic decline in interstate conflict have seen the emergence of non-traditional security challenges which should now be considered core national security issues.
Aside from these threats being non-military in nature, they share rather common characteristics. They are transnational in scope, they arise at short notice and are transmitted rapidly as a result of globalisation and the communication revolution.
When it comes to Botswana, there is one very critical yet hidden non-traditional security threat that often does not get an audience in policy circles but which has the potential to affect long term peace, security, stability and development within this country. Here I am referring to huge or rising unemployment and poverty especially among the youth. Many policy makers in Botswana including Members of Parliament, the executive and top bureaucrats of the various ministries and departments, do not consider poverty and unemployment as a major security problem. Policies in Botswana have often tended to scratch the surface of these problems rather than getting to the bottom.
Evidence is beginning to emerge which suggest that for some of the unemployed, excluded, marginalised and poverty stricken members of Botswana, violent crime have become the only means through which they can make a living.
Unemployment and poverty are the potential sources of social and in extension political problems Botswana may face. Furthermore unemployment and poverty is in itself an indicator of several malfunctions and wrongdoings as far as public policy or the very structure of a society and economy are concerned. Botswana should wake up to the reality that unemployment and poverty poses a series of serious problems to the very character of a democratic, liberal system as well as the integrity of the social web itself. The major threats of unemployment, thus absence of income and opportunities for a better life is the more profound and long term effect of the exploitation of the situation not only by the transnational criminal organisations but by extremist and terrorist groups which might further throw Botswana deeper into political instability.
It is very naïve for people to think that Botswana is immune to terrorism. Groups like Boko Haram and Al shabaab fed on the desperation and poverty of unemployed youths in both Nigeria and Somalia for easy recruitment and later went on to commit unspeakable acts of terror against the local populations. Policy makers in Botswana should as a matter of urgency address the issue of poverty and unemployment to avoid Botswana falling in these pitfall before it is too late.
All in all the new non-traditional security threats that Botswana faces calls for a radical departure on the part of policy makers from a traditional realist approach to national security as the acquirement of modern military hardware as a priority security matter is superseded by the need to create meaningful socio economic reforms.
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