Botswana military deal triggers regional security fears

Apr 03, 2017

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE – International peace researchers have warned Botswana to reconsider its decision to purchase Gripen fighter jets from Swedish manufacturers, saying the move could trigger a regional arms race.    

However, Botswana’s Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, defended the country’ s high military expenditure, following accusations by the opposition that it could spark an arms race in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Now a group of peace researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden have joined the chorus in condemning Botswana for acquiring a fleet of advanced fighter aircraft saying this may trigger a regional arms race, with other neighbouring countries likely to follow suit, with detrimental consequences for everyone but the arms dealers.

At present, the researchers observed, Botswana was not facing any direct external threat and it was unclear why huge sums of money must be invested in the acquisition of advanced fighter jets.

“Whereas the need to protect the country’s tourism industry, combat poaching and monitor the flow of refugees previously were indicated as reasons, none of these problems can be solved with advanced fighter jets,” the researchers said.

The Swedish researchers further observed that the arms deal with Botswana would worsen economic and democratic development in the country, undermine regional security and mar Sweden’ s reputation in Southern Africa.

They also condemned the campaigns by the manufacturers of the Gripen fighter jet, Saab, in Botswana, saying the move was in direct conflict with Sweden’s foreign policy goals.

The researchers said last year a high-ranking Swedish delegation, led by Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, toured Botswana.

According to peace researchers, Johan Brosché, Kristine Höglund and Sebastian van Baalen, Botswana is facing major economic problems. Over a fifth of its population of two million people lives in abject poverty and subsists on less than two US dollars a day, despite the country’s large diamond resources. They said that the billions to be invested in fighter jets would undermine efforts to curb unemployment, and fight drought and corruption.

But Kgathi defended the high expenditure by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). He said the role of the BDF   in response to the changing global security landscape, which entails cyber warfare, terrorism, and poaching that individually and collectively call for new strategies and readiness to respond to such threats at national, regional and international levels – has been evolving accordingly.

“It is against this background that the need for a well-resourced and well-trained defence force, with a high state of readiness to defend the nation remains a priority,” he said. According to Kgathi, the BDF has since 2015/16 embarked on the acquisition of key defence equipment, which comprises military hardware and mobility assets that would serve to improve its effectiveness and capability.

“With the evolving security landscape, security threats have increased. These threats include, among many others, border security, cybercrime, internal and transnational organised crime, poaching and terrorism. In order to address them, collaborative effort among relevant stakeholders has been considered paramount and essential,” he said.

Kgathi said the BDF’s commitment to providing national security was premised on a number of initiatives that would be undertaken over the coming years.

“These will include development of modern and effective capabilities to deter potential aggressors, implementation of effective counter-terrorism strategies, effective and efficient operations in cyberspace, as well as provision of aid to civil authority in conducting of humanitarian and disaster relief,” he said.

As its strategic policy objectives, Kgathi said, the BDF intends to bridge the existing security and capability gaps through the acquisition of defence systems, communication systems and mobility assets, which will enable the BDF to undertake operations that are both defensive and offensive in nature; and to undertake training necessary for responding to the hybrid of security threats.

“The expectation is that such efforts will assist in improving the BDF’s operational capability and enhance mobilisation time, which is a key element in the efficiency and effectiveness of any army and in promoting the morale of the workforce,” he said.

28 Responses

  1. Southern Africa must talk political union not military confrontation. The same people, with common history, similar culture only divided by the Europeans resorting to arming themselves against each other instead of working together towards the unification of their small and useless economies in a meaningful polity that can work for all the people of Southern Africa. Shame on the leaders. I guess previous colonial masters because were much more politically mature than the current crop of leaders would jump at any opportunity to establish a meaningful state in Southern Africa. In fact they attempted it several times before. Ironically that is not the subject of the leaders of today.

    • You’re right there should be political unity but some this dillusional pan african politics of one people one nation is far from reality.Westen Europe has political union in form of European Union but that still has never materialised in form of one European super state other than economic ties, Germans are still german, so are French, English, Swedes, Greeks etc Tswana nation as any ethnic nation in the world predate borders & will always be there & has a right to exist & guard its interest therefore Botswana was always there. The only reason the colonial governments united was they had a common enemy to fight. Europe today is very much divided as it has always been idealogically, politically etc. Nothing new so get real

  2. Botswana is preparing to fight Zimbabwe, they are confused people… do u hate your neighborhood

    • Are you sure about what you are saying?

      Fight them for what?

    • U need to put out whatever it is you are smoking… Why would we fight Zimbabwe?

    • Khama hates Mugabe, don’t involve me in your smoke of cow dung, pliz

    • No this guy stomach is full of rat meat they eat thats why he comment nonsense. Why yould we even bother attacking a country dying in slow motion. These stupid SADC Media always make noise when we buy weapons yet Namibia & SA bought weapons even last year & they were mum about it

  3. That the best time to fight Zimbabwe with its stupid president Mugabe

    • Another idiot. Zimbabwe belongs to the people not some individuals. Redirect ur stupid statement. And where the hell are you from?

  4. Botswana is a problematic country, hey think they are somehow unique and powerful but the truth is they are just a diamond mine masquerading as a country. Instead of promoting peace and regional office integration, they are buying expensive weapons
    Who are they targeting, Namibia, Zimbabwe? What we need right now in SADC is regional integration. Shame on you Botswana!

  5. Funny who can they fight their army had never been to war even peacekeeping missions jst a worst of mani mayb its for hunting illigal imigrants cz thats what they knw best with a lot of poverty and unemployment its a shame cz southen africa iz the most peaceful region in africa

    • You’re very stupid & misinformed. Botswana went to peace keeping missions in Somalia in 1991, 1993 in Mozambique when it liberated the people of Tete from Frelimo, 1994 in Rwanda & 1998 a millitary intervention in Lesotho, trains Zambian paratroopers & Lesotho cadets. We fought a brief border war with white Rhodesian forces during the early 70’s losing 16 soldiers & capturing Rhodesing millitary equipment. And we have the right to arm & defend ourselves. Make an informed comment next time

    • Secondly you fool, Botswana unemployment rate is lowest in SADC & poverty rate least in sub saharan africa, we are an upper middle income economy with the highest GDP Per capita in SADC. & what the hell are your people doing in Botswana if we were so poor. Since your country is barely functional uses our currency & you over populate us & steal. Shut up

      • You’re an idiot. Which one is ur country? Deal with the issue at hand not the rest of us. You don’t operate in isolation. Reread your history too.

    • I’m waiting for this FOOL to utter more ignorance! What happened to him!?! 🤔 moron !! Thanks Hans Ulrich.

  6. What security fears? Because SANDF have the same Grippen jets we want, Angola has Mig, Namibia has Chengdu fighters our F5 fighters are old & useless these. Namibia last year bought latest Russiam Armour & were delivered & you didnt make noise

  7. But Mugabe is messing up southern Africa by recruiting stupid politicians in his neighborhood to follow after his rubbish political tactics so better botswana starts positioning its self in a leading role coz south Africa is not inspiring if anything

  8. Public servants can’t get the increments they deserve, organizations are retrenching people, our education system is degrading, but our public funds are poured on things we don’t tremendously need at the moment what is happening in Bots is unacceptable

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