For the last few weeks I have been gradually and progressively making my case on the need for a thorough military doctrine for Botswana Defence Force. Knowing that most of my readers do not have any military background, I should therefore move in a very slow but tactical manner.
In doing so I will do my very best to not leave the un-militarised reader behind in sharing my viewpoint. In my persuasive approach, I am trying to convince both the learned and the layman with my viewpoints on the issue of military doctrine. The bottom line that will not be altered by any circumstances is that; BDF needs a sound military doctrine that will define the organisation’s role and purpose of existence.
Military doctrine is not a new invention by any standard and there is nothing secret about it that cannot be published in any form of media. I am drawing this line of thought because my views seem to be rattling some myopic minds at BDF.
For BDF to allow their officer to attack a columnist in the print media as well as in the social media leaves a lot to be desired on the organisation. I have said this before and I will still want to make a concerted repetition; it is my view that BDF headquarters has sanctioned these attacks. Otherwise they would have long distanced themselves from this unbecoming behaviour by one of their colonels.
However, I am not the first person to be punished for the crime of thinking. But this is a democracy! For as long as BDF or any other government organisation continues to be funded from the public coffers, the public has a right to know where those funds go and how they are put to use.
Military doctrine will help BDF as a public institution to become more accountable to both parliament and Public Accounts Committee. These are conduits for accounting to members of the public on how their taxes are being spent.
My view on the aissue of how we should treat and support our military as a nation seeks to transform the reader in favour of our military establishment. We should all become part of the public discourse and freely debate issues of our military. In fact we should become more open as a nation in the way we regard our military.
Members of the public should understand their military beyond what is known as BDF Day. During the era of Colonel Mogorosi Baatweng as head of Protocol and Public Affairs at BDF, he laid down a clear cut programme of advancing knowledge on military issues to the public. That included participation in career fairs in the different schools. When the military organisation turned 30 in 2007, Colonel Baatweng arranged a BDF roadshow around the country. In the process he gave the rural folks an opportunity to interact with the defence force and understand the way it conducts its business.
Members of the public often ask this one question; “kante masole ba dira eng ga go sena ntwa (what do soldiers do in the absence of war)? You will not get members of the public asking the same question either in the United States, Britain or India. Why so? The military has become an inseparable part of those nations and it is used to advance their national policies in many ways.
For as long as people are asking such questions, it shows the level of maturity of our military. Or should I construct this statement in reverse to infer that it is the public that exhibits a level of immaturity?
In my discussion of the military in what I refer to as public space, I often get feedback and most of it is positive. Some regard me as a pioneer in writing about military issues as an ex-soldier. My forerunner in this regard is Peace Lekoko Kenosi who left BDF more than a decade before my own departure and went on to open up media space which was out of reach for military veterans.
Kenosi was writing an opinion piece for The Botswana Gazette. This excited soldiers so much that the paper’s availability at the barracks was a problem. By the time the newspaper management addressed this distribution hurdle, General Khama had banned it from all military establishments. Kenosi’s views were more radical than those I address. He tackled pertinent issues in the way BDF was run. In those days the organisation was still run more like a personal piece of real estate rather than a public institution.
The fact of the matter is; when you write with an explicit knowledge of any institution, those remaining will often feel threatened while others rejoice. The group that feels threatened would normally have vested interests in the unorthodox way of running the institution.
It is purely natural that any new ideas that suggests that things should otherwise be done in a new fashion becomes a threat because it takes away power and control from their stable. They will therefore do anything to fight back in order to solidify their position.
Doctrine will help BDF with designing more soldier friendly policies. On a similar note it will help create guidelines for procurement. It is without doubt that only one local company with strong ruling party relations has benefited from BDF’s procurement in the past. As a trickledown effect, some soldier and officers have personally benefited in this unequal relationship between BDF and company only known to me as Seleka Spring Onion if I still remember the name well.
Of course there will be those who will put their lives in the line of danger in order to protect the unequal homogenous dominance by certain suppliers. Doctrine will help us to form a natural flow in all areas of our military including the procurement of military hardware.