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Trigger Happy or anti poaching combat?

•Inquest in BDF Namibian ‘poachers’ killing set for Kasane >22 witnesses to take the stand

Answers to whether the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) soldiers illegally shot and killed four suspected poachers, including claims that one of them was executed, are expected emerge during a two-week-long inquest set for November 15-26 in Kasane.

The four suspected poachers-one Zambian and three Nambian nationals were fatally killed after a confrontation with the BDF soldiers last year November near Sedudu area (Southern Channel of Chobe River) around 11 PM.

At the time,a press release from the BDF, explained that the alleged syndicate of poachers was part of a network responsible for cross-border organised poaching.

“The matter has been handed over to relevant investigating agencies. As previously stated, there is an alarming surge of organised poaching for rhinoceros and elephants, especially in the Western part of the Country (Okavango Delta and in the Chobe National Park),” read the press release.

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The incident dubbed “BDFKillings” caused a major uproar especially from the Namibians compelling the country’s Presidents to commit to launching a thorough investigation into the incident.

Now Botswana-through the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on Wednesday approached the court in Kasane for determination of whether the BDF were trigger happy or they had acted in self defence.

The inquest will have 22 witnesses including BDF, Police, and witnesses from Botswana and Namibia just to mention a few, take the stand to determine whether there could possibly be foul play in the killing of the four men.

According to a source close to the investigations the Police in Kasane were tipped off by one of their informants in Namibia that the four men had left for a poaching expedition, and this is where the whole story began.

“The police in Kasane were tipped off by their informants that the men had left for Botswana. They knew beforehand that the men had left and for what purposes. The man has since changed his story but the police should have the phone records,” the source said.

According to our source, the inquest seeks to determine amongst others, two key areas which are in contrast,
Firstly according to the Namibians, the four men were fishermen but according to our source, the men were found with no fishnets and or any other equipment to show they were indeed fishing.

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“The question that needs to be answered is why they were on the Botswana side of the river after the 6 pm curfew of the park and if indeed they were fishing at the time, was it a fishing season in Botswana,” said the source.

On the other hand, the BDF’s story is that the shootings were in self defence after the men had opened gunfire on the soldiers first.

“The other point the inquest should determine is that the BDF soldiers claim the men shot at them after they (BDF) made a warning call. In other words, they shot them in self-defence as they (the four men) shot first. Where are the guns that they purportedly shot at the BDF with? How many shots were fired? Those are some of the questions that need to be answered,” the source further revealed.

According to the Namibians, about 31 citizens have died at the hands of the BDF, something they believe has harmed diplomatic ties of the two countries.

The last inquest of a similar nature happened back in 2015 when the BDF killed two Namibian poachers. Then, the court ruled that the BDF soldiers could not be held criminally liable for the deaths of the two Namibians.

It was established that, “The BDF through the use of the night vision device satisfied themselves of the potential danger, which was posed by the two (2) individuals. They established that they were armed and therefore a conclusion that there was a potential danger to them. They applied caution to the situation by providing illumination to the area during the alleged contact with the two (2) individuals. Corporal Mathe ordered the two (2) to freeze, however, they responded in what they described as a retaliatory manner. By this response, they interpreted the same to be inviting them to engage. They did and their conduct led to the death of the two (2) deceased.”

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The case, which affects the three neighbouring countries Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana is set to once against test the diplomatic relations of the three countries.

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