Ever since the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) shootings that killed three Namibians and one Zambian near Sedudu Island, a diplomatic standoff has been brewing between Gaborone and Windhoek.
Last Friday, President Mokgweetsi Masisi honored what appeared like summons from Windhoek to mend relations with his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob.
For Geingob, the visit appeared to quell rising tensions in the Zambezi region. The people of the Zambezi (formerly called Caprivi) are accusing president Geingob of failing to protect them against the on-going “terror” from the BDF. A group calling itself Namibians Lives Matter (NLM) has labelled Geingob a “spokesperson” for President Masisi, blaming their President for “colluding” with Botswana in the recent killings.
A week before Masisi travelled to Windhoek, NLM released a strongly worded statement concerning the refusal of both governments to release investigation and autopsy reports on the slain ‘fishermen’.
The NLM statement signed by National Executive Chairperson, Sinvula Mudabeti accused Windhoek of neglecting its citizens and singing to the tune of a foreign government. “We would like to say Namibia continues to behave as if it is a province of Botswana and not an independent country of its own,” said NLM.
“This [Botswana-Namibia joint] statement was prepared by Botswana and given to Namibia. It is not a joint statement but a Botswana statement given over to Namibia. This statement was issued by Botswana on the 30th of December 2021 and Namibia’s statement was released on the 31st of December 2021 (copied and pasted AS IS) and duplicated on a letter head of the Namibian presidency,” said NLM.
NLM further rebuked the joint statement for diluting the killings and labelling them “differences”.
“Now their statement reduces such a cruel and inhuman way to killing fishermen to an issue of differences. This is a crime against humanity! This is a serious matter and yet Botswana calls it differences? Botswana has never been a good neighbour to Namibia yet we allow fuel destined to Botswana to pass through our roads,” the NLM statement read in part.
“The question we keep asking ourselves is, why is Botswana treated better than people of Zambezi? What crime have the people of Zambezi committed such that they are treated as a stepchild.”
The killings are now fanning the old Caprivi conflict that could bring trouble in the region as the Namibians in the Zambezi are seeking answers. The Caprivi conflict was an armed conflict between the Namibian government and the Caprivi Liberation Army, a rebel group that waged a brief insurrection in 1999 for the secession of the then Caprivi Strip (now Zambezi Region). “How long should we remain calm? It has been two months since the killing took place? How long should we remain patient? What historical ties are founded on common culture and mutual respect when even our own president does not know the Zambezi culture?,” asked the organisation.
After the NLM threatened to take Namibia government to court to have the autopsy and investigation reports released and also to seek international remedies by petitioning the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, Masisi made a surprise visit to Windhoek.
According to Masisi, the one day working visit, which
Although the issue of Zambezi killings was not expressively covered in the communiqué after the visit, during a subsequent press conference, the Namibian President responded to NLM’s label of “Spokesperson for Botswana”.
“I resent that. That apparently I am a spokesperson for Botswana. Let’s show some kind of respect.
It is true, lives were lost. We are sorry for that. We regret it, When you are trying to dictate to me of what to do, I am sorry you are not going to get that from me. Let’s show some little kind of respect.
We are dealing with this issue. If you want to use it for some kind of issue, just tell us that. There are courts but this thing is in Botswana’s jurisdiction. Don’t instigate people for your own ulterior motives,” said Geingob.
During Masisi’s address, the president in his condolences for the slain fishermen also reminded the Namibians that Botswana has recently buried a soldier who was killed in the line of duty by poachers.
Masisi said the investigation report will not be published because it is still before the courts.
In response to claims that Namibia is not protecting the people of Zambezi, Geingob issued a bizarre sarcastic missive saying: “I want to recruit young men to fight the war in Botswana.
I want to get a few of them who are talking too much so I can recruit them so we can start the war. If that is the thing? You want a war? I want to recruit”.
This week NLM through Mudabeti responded to Geingod saying: “We never asked for war, we asked for protection! We never insulted the President, we cautioned him against speaking on behalf of another country! We never disrespected the President, we corrected him to honour the oath of office he took! And we never asked to be trained for war, we asked him to remain a President of Namibia!
We want the autopsy report and the investigation REPORT! Mr President, you will HEAR US SOON”.
Mudabeti said they are disappointed in the manner in which “State House was used as a pedestal to show how a government treats its weakest members”.
“When the President of Botswana visited State House, the Namibian President believed a new version on the way forward, as informed by a cunning and manipulative Masisi who spoke good English without making sense.
The President of Botswana found a new term to bring confusion, and stated that the investigation report is subjudicate hence it will not be released prior to Botswana courts completing their work which are subject to that investigation report.
If this is true, and we know it is not true as Botswana is buying time.
Why didn’t the Namibian President say this earlier on? Even Dr Hengari, Press Secretary in the Presidency said the Head of State will release the report after studying and not subjudicate? Who is fooling who here?”