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BDF abducted, murdered Namibian fishermen – report

BDF

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is now facing fresh accusations of allegedly abducting the Nchindo brothers and their Zambian cousin from the Namibian side and then killing them in Botswana, says a report authored by a Namibian parliamentary committee.

The report which was released this week by Namibia’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Security, Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs claims that as part of its continued harassment of Namibian citizens living along the border between the two neighbouring countries, “The BDF would guide their boats across the Chobe with the intention of harassing, arresting and even shooting the fishermen.”

According to the report, “The Nchindo brothers in the Kasika/Impalia areas were found fishing on the Namibian side of the Chobe River and were taken across to Botswana where they were eventually murdered.”  It says, “The scenario of arresting Namibians from Namibia and then taking them into Botswana has brought the use of words such as abduction, extra rendition, extraterritorial and extra judiciary into play.”

Martin Nchindo, Tommy Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo and their cousin Sinvula Munyeme were shot dead by the members of the BDF in 2020 following suspicions they were poachers.  The report says learners and teachers at one of the schools near one the rivers felt terrified, especially as the BDF helicopters hovered the skies above their schools. “The children at Nakabolelwa Combined School could not access the river for their lessons, as teachers fear that such learners could be shot at,” says the report.

The report says the fear of war is forever lingering on the minds of teachers at Nakabolelwa Combined School as they fear that cross border skirmishes of wars similar to the one of 1981 could erupt.  “Therefore, the residents in the Nakabolelwa area did not want the deployment of Namibian Defence Force as that could lead to war between the two armies,” says the report.

It says the BDF crossed the Chobe to the Namibian side of the river at will, but Namibians would not be allowed to do the same adding that in the Ngoma District, there are drier patches in the Chobe River and the BDF uses these patches to cross over into Namibia.  It further states that as a an inseparable feature to the Motion on the Security Situation along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando River in the Zambezi Region, the Committee had to ascertain for itself as to whether, or not, there were cases of aggression that were perpetrated by the Botswana Defence Force on the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando riverine people.

“It is in adherence to the aforesaid that attendees to the hearing came up with a plethora of narrations as far as issues involving aggression in general were concerned,” reads the report.  The report says the inaugural session in Katima Mulilo clarified that the acts of aggression by the Botswana/Namibian borderline clearly showed that the BDF did not respect the human lives and human rights of Namibians.  “Actually, wild animals received fair treatment at the hands of the BDF, when compared to the one given to Namibians as the behaviour of the soldiers was determined by the country’s “shoot to kill policy.”

It says Namibians were not allowed to access their traditional grazing pastures, especially the ever-green grazing pastures that were by the banks of the Chobe/Liyanti/Kwando Rivers.  “The residents within the target areas need protection against the aggression of a foreign army. The fishermen who had no choice but to storm the river for fishing suffered harassment at the hands of the BDF day and night,” the report says. It says these fishermen sell their catch to merchants who in turn resell their shoals of fish at the Katima Mulilo Open Market.

“To ensure that that the fishermen sell fish in its fresh state, the practice of fishing at night became a necessity. Many-a-times these innocent Namibian fishermen constitute a team of poachers in the eyes of the BDF and they are normally arrested and taken to Botswana. Many of these fishermen were detained even if they were found on the Namibian side of the river,” the report says.

In its exploration, the Committee said discovered that there are established communal conservancies along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando Rivers, indicating Impala, Kabula, Kasika, Kwando, Nankabolelwa Bamunu, Dzoti, Wuparo and Balwera conservancies. These conservancies, depend on trophy hunting, lodge developments, game shooting and sale, live game sales, game for own use and other game utilisation activities including tourism, which continues to be the main source of income for these conservancies.

“For instance, a hippo was killed by a trophy hunter in Impalila conservancy, who asked a community member to load the carcass in the boat. Shortly, the BDF appeared crossing illegally to Namibian side and ordered the boat driver to stop immediately,” the report says. It says the driver tried to explain that he was tasked by the trophy hunter to assist with transport, who later confirmed that indeed it was his carcass.

The Committee found that members of the communities living alongside the rivers do not know at which point they cross over to the Botswana side of the when conducting normal fishing activities or until which point they can allow their animals to graze and which areas are allowed to cut reeds to construct their houses.

The also committee found that the purpose of development of Namibian Defence Force (NDF) in the area of concern is not well-defined or neither understood by the communities.  “NDF members are regularly seen around in the villages, but not being seen around patrolling the river line where the communities believe they should be. The purpose of the NDF presence in the area is mainly to curb poaching in the area and not necessarily to patrol the border as expected by the community,” says the report.

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