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Shoot To Kill: What Is The Value Of Human Life!

The shoot to kill law is one that has been challenged in many countries.

It has been subject to debate in Botswana, because of the many casualties who have died as a result of the said law.

In a country that is host to many endangered species, including rhinos, elephants, lions, which poachers could quite literally kill for, it is a law that becomes even more complex.

The juxtaposed question will always be, what about the right to life of the person who is being shot at? The shoot to kill law essentially provides that it is legally acceptable to use deadly force to defend one’s self in a situation where a reasonable person believes that another person intends to either seriously injure them or kill them.

In essence, at the heart of it, the shoot to kill policy conceptually provides that nobody has to allow an injury in order to avoid legal liability.

The shoot to kill law has been criticised for the amount of latitude it extends to under the law, often to law enforcement.

Key to the legal standards is that it is that whether or not there is actual threat, is of no consequence. What matters is the shooters “objectively reasonable” belief that there is threat.

A few days ago, we woke up to a press release from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) relating to an alleged anti-poaching incident in the Chobe area.

The release suggests that four Namibian nationals, who were shot by the BDF, were poachers who were killed in the mission of defending Botswana’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and national interests. The killings occurred, as the release suggests, for the reason that there has been a surge of organised poaching for rhinos and elephants in the Western parts of Botswana being Chobe and the Okavango Delta.

The extent of the incident is not detailed by the BDF nor by their anti-poaching unit.

On the same morning, our social media alerted us to the disgruntlement of Namibia at yet another killing of their nationals by BDF. These men, Namibian’s allege were fishermen, who happened to be in Botswana for fishing purposes.

After all is said and done, I suppose we can only say, the truth about what took place on that fateful night, is known only by the anti-poaching personnel involved in the incident, and the men whose graves will unfortunately not speak on their behalf.

This is, however, not an isolated incident. In a community gathering in Impalila, one of the community leaders addressed the community on what can only be referred to as a “habit” of the BDF to kill Namibians in Botswana.

He states that a total

of about 37 Namibian nationals between the Chobe and Linyanti areas alone, have to date, been killed by members of the BDF, acting with the supposed understanding that they are poachers.

The anger that this has invariably brewed in other Namibians who continue to mourn the lives of their own, is quite remarkable in this incident, with reports that Namibians have called for the Botswana diplomatic office in Namibia to close completely.

Batswana have not remained silent themselves. Of course, with the incident having occurred in a poaching red zone, there is a huge outcry that there was no way for the anti-poaching people to know whether the four were poachers or fishermen.

It being that the soldiers cannot have gone to the men and asked after the intentions, the finger Batswana are hiding behind is the one that says, the reasonable conclusion for the anti-poaching unit was that the men, who were in Botswana unlawfully, were there for illegal poaching activity.

The reason I propose that it is but a finger we are hiding behind, is that illegally crossing borders is activity which is not novel to Botswana as a landlocked country. It happens in the Barolong area, where people from South Africa and Botswana cross over to visit relatives.

In the Kgalagadi area where the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park is a shared territory, the residents cross over to neighbouring South Africa to purchase food or for leisure. At the North East, there are many who cross over into Botswana fleeing the political and economic unrest in their own country.

It happens even at the Okavango Delta. Invariably, it should be expected in the Chobe as well.

No! I am not saying it should be accepted, but that it should be expected that our neighbouring relatives will, from time to time, be found on the other side of the border.

How they are handled should not, without explanation, be treated any differently from that of our other neighbours; otherwise it shows our biases.

Yes indeed, Chobe and Okavango are areas where a lot of poaching activity occurs.

For an estimated total of about 37 people to have been killed from one area however is cause for alarm and for us to more critically consider “shoot to kill”.

The anti-poaching unit in Botswana is one of the best, globally.

For this reason, many animals have been brought to Botswana for refuge. It would be unfortunate to learn that some innocents have been killed on the undue belief that they were not civilians. What is the value of human life?

There Are No Others



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