The issue of the Botswana Defence Force killings in Zambezi

… Looking at the big picture without lacking empathy and solidarity

By Michael Katangolo

BEFORE getting to the heart of the matter, I want to make one thing clear. The tragedy that befell the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin Sinvula Munyeme on November 5 2020, was a serious blow to the psyche of all Namibians. As if things could not get any worse, the grieving mother was overcome by melancholy and passed away, several days after the untimely death of her sons. There is something very disturbing about a neighbouring country which confidently gives its soldiers the green light to gun down our citizens with impunity.

One would have thought that this incident would galvanise Namibians and unite us in purpose, as we seek solutions to what is becoming a regular occurrence, with periodic killings of Namibians by BDF soldiers. Unfortunately, at this hour, when political opportunism has become a means of putting bread on the table, there are those Namibians who have not wasted time in using this tragedy to advance their disruptive anti-government and secessionist rhetoric.

Some Namibians, egged-on by manipulative political agitators, have capitalised on the atmosphere of heated emotions to launch scathing attacks aimed at the government, most notably the Head of State. It is disconcerting to note the tribally charged and unpatriotic rhetoric that has emanated from certain corners, to the point where there are some individuals asserting that if those killed had been Oshiwambo-speaking Namibians, then President Geingob would have rushed to visit the region and their families.

We have seen this before. There are those who have accused the President of favouring certain traditional authorities over others and this is the perfect fodder such divisive minded individuals look for. Such simple mindedness should continue to be ignored but it is perhaps important for all of us to think beyond emotions and take a closer look at the manner in which President Geingob has handled this potentially explosive matter.

They say history is often the best teacher so let us look at an incident that occurred early last year when Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter jet, which had allegedly violated Pakistani airspace. The details of the incident are complex but the fact of the matter was that the Indian jet was shot down and subsequently, the pilot was captured by the Pakistani military. Many Indian citizens immediately took to the streets, baying for blood and similar sentiments were shared on the Pakistani side. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and his counterpart Imran Khan of Pakistan, both astute, mature and experienced leaders, found a way to bring what was a potential flashpoint incident to an amicable conclusion.

This is one of many examples of potentially catastrophic incidents that have occurred over the past several years between countries, that were solved at the highest level by Heads of State and Government.

A mature, experienced and responsible Head of State is expected to be well versed in the art of diplomacy. It is not befitting for a leader to get caught up in emotions and react in an irresponsible manner. So, in this instance, President Geingob has acted appropriately, in a manner consistent with democratic principles and in line with regional, continental and international diplomatic norms.

Dylan Williams from the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, in his article titled The Art of Diplomacy in Leadership states the following, “Being a leader often requires strong levels of diplomacy in order to be successful. Whether you are in business or politics, diplomacy is crucial when there are disagreements between parties and a lot is at stake.”

With the above postulation in mind, it is important that we understand that the President of Namibia must at all times practice strong diplomacy in order to successfully negotiate complex matters. For those who are drunk on emotion and reacting in a reckless manner, please know that there is a lot at stake if Namibia and Botswana should go to war. Maybe it is because so many of us have been born in peace times, we think war is a joke, as if it is some PS5 video game, à la Call of Duty.

War is not a joke. Just ask our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, many of them who are fleeing across the border to neighbouring Sudan, whether war is fun, whether conflict and internal strife between citizens achieves anything besides misery and death?

The President has explicitly informed the nation that he is engaged with his Botswana counterpart, at the highest level. He is our leader, chosen by us to lead, through democratic electoralprocesses. Let us take him to his word and see how these tragic incidents can be avoided in future. At present, we have too many voices on this matter, some without any experience in conflict resolution. We are hearing a lot of divisive rhetoric devoid of any maturity or logic. Let us leave this to the pros and not make matters worse.

Once again, we all stand united with the Nchindo and Munyeme families as they mourn the tragic loss of their loved ones. Namibia bleeds with you, we feel your pain. We trust that our leaders, whom we have elected, will do what is necessary, as they know best, so that we shall not cry for our loved ones again.

May their souls rest in eternal peace.