Botswana and Namibia are meeting for the 24th session of the two countries’ Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) on defence and security at a time when tension is thick over the shooting of Namibian poachers earlier this year.
Though the matter was just mentioned in passing, sources say it constituted largely behind-the-scene discussions throughout the duration of the meeting.
Namibia’s Minister of Defence, Penda Ya Ndakolo, yesterday said in a lowered voice that as neighbours, the two countries are likely to face security threats and risks which are similar in nature. “Most prominent of the security threats nowadays include terrorism, illegal immigration and poaching,” he said.
“…this situation calls for the formulation and development of common points of departure, approaches and strategies in order for both countries to protect our environment and to preserve the prevailing peace and stability in our two countries,” he added.
Ndakolo believes and expects the meeting, which ends today to bring the two countries’ defence and security institutions “closer together thereby considerably reducing any gaps that might exist in the modus operandi towards better and coordinated efforts in the maintenance of peace and security along our common borders and beyond.”
On May 11, a group of six men crossed from Namibia into Botswana with a canoe. A Zambian national and two Namibians were shot dead on May 15 during a joint operation of the Botswana Defence Force and the Botswana Police. Post the shootings, the Namibian media reported that Windhoek wanted to find a solution to what it described as the “disturbing problem” of Botswana’s shoot-to-kill policy with regard to poachers.
The Namibia government said the policy has resulted in “deaths that could have been prevented”. “Regionally, Namibia pursues a policy of peaceful co-existence with all its neighbours and promotes good neighbourliness with all countries in SADC, including the Republic of Botswana,” said Ndakolo.
Botswana and Namibia cannot afford to have any elements of conflict because of their strong culture and history of shared values- according to Botswana’s minister of defence, justice and security, Shaw Kgathi.
“We should therefore commit to continue, at all levels, to leverage on such affinities to sustain our economies as well as peace and security,” he said.
He said the two nations should rather focus on “our common enemies in the new global challenges such as unprecedented global migration and refugee population growth and other security challenges such as poaching, cyber security, terrorism, corruption, money-laundering, and human trafficking,”
These challenges, according to Kgathi, have individually and jointly increased risks to human security and economies worldwide.