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Is Botswana a Paranoid State?

Publishing Date : 05 September, 2017

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The post -cold war era indicates and dictates that the state is not a sole guarantor of security. This is a wakeup call for both domestic and foreign policy. Both far and near, security and development are different but not dichotomous.  

Security is not merely based on arms but mainly on development.  Building durable peace depends on empowerment of people and their communities. What is the point of spending a lot of money on the state’s defense budget in the midst of people oriented priorities and challenges. It is important to note that security without development is pouring water into a leaking pipe. It is total absurdity.   

The UN’s Report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change advises that ‘development has to be the first line of defense for a collective security system that takes prevention seriously’. This affirms the UN’s commitment to human security-based on development not arms.  State security cannot be jettisoned but needs to be highly complemented by human security.

Botswana in particular cannot afford to strain state expenditure on guns and fighter jets while the people are hungry, angry and vulnerable or susceptible to insecurity. On the balance of thought and practice, Botswana’s major challenges in the twenty first century carry a development face.  People do not only need protection but empowerment. As Kofi Anan once noted, ‘security can no longer be understood in purely military terms. Rather, it must encompass economic development, social justice, environmental protection, democratization, disarmament, respect for human rights and the rule of law’. The big question arises thus: Is Botswana a paranoid state?

According to Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary, being paranoid simply means ‘afraid or suspicious of other people and believing that they are trying to harm you, in a way that is not reasonable’. The post -cold war Botswana faces a mammoth task of balancing or setting priorities right. Therefore, the biggest security challenge is not merely military aggression from other states but rather both the protection and empowerment of the people.  

These problems range from economic challenges like poverty and unemployment to fighting intra-state conflicts. It is total paranoia to beef up defense or military resources in the midst of such challenges. It is unreasonable to spend unaccounted billions on the military yet people are disempowered, disenchanted and disenfranchised. Today’s security does not only entail freedom from fear but also freedom from want and indignity. The real threat is most likely to be internal dissidence from a disgruntled youth, the poverty stricken or any socio-economic and politico-strategic exclusion or marginalization of the people.

Thus, the country may easily become a breeding place for terrorism, transnational crime, human and drug trafficking.  Given such challenges, there is need for unconventional thinking /approach towards security. Furthermore, it is wiser to spend money on other state agencies like the police and D.C.E.C to combat rampant crime and corruption than to prepare for a war in the face of no known enemy or threat that warrants military aggression.

Botswana’s civil-military relations may backslide due to lack of trust between the people and the military. This may happen because people will fear the military to the point of triggering violence or any malevolence against the state in an endeavor to protect and empower themselves against a more feared and powerful state.

State agencies are likely to panic and test the might of their resources on the people. Furthermore, proper training and empowerment of such institutions should be made a priority. When the state becomes more powerful than the people it may simply become a menace to the very people it is supposed to empower and protect. This will ensure the need for strong institutions not strong men as per Barak Obama’s observation.

As Professor Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko puts it, ‘the army, police and other security organs, in particular, must be thoroughly trained in the proper exercise of their powers, on how to relate to civilians and on their role in society generally’. Improper execution and abuse of power or authority may lead to lack of public trust on the state apparatus. In the face of no known enemy the state may turn against its own people who may appear as enemies or threat to the higher echelons of power. This may evidently be done under the disguise of national security.

Risk and Threat Assessment on security is most likely to be arbitrary and biased more especially without involving policy makers, relevant professionals and other relevant stakeholders. Though, there is need for secrecy to a certain extent, the executive is not supposed to act solely because they might act to safeguard their own interests.

Parliament need be involved actively in both policy and legislation related to defense and security. Based on his DPhil thesis in 2003, Wilhelm Bernhardt argues that there is need for a systematic approach and credible methodology rather than resorting to speculations, simplistic forecasting or ‘semantic disclaimers.’ This is necessary to guard against misallocation and waste of scarce resources under the disguise of security.

In an interview with Duma FM radio station on 5 December 2016, Hon Major Gen. Pius Mokgware accused the government of ‘exaggerating threats or exaggerated security analysis. This, he argues that it breeds corruption. This remarks came in response to the appointment of body guards for the Speaker of the National Assembly.

An unaccountable state is most likely to be paranoid. More especially in Africa, where there is too much secrecy in the security sector that is devoid of accountability, transparency or openness and tantamount to corruption and mismanagement.  The extravagant spending on state or military security involves procurement or obscure tendering processes.

Therefore, with too much powers vested on the President and a marginalized parliament, public scrutiny and accountability remain a mirage. Furthermore, the executive is most likely to use national security as a scapegoat while corruption and mismanagement persist unabated. The same resources used to beef up security are most likely to be used to protect state elites and their interests over the interests of the people for a greater public good.

Given a hostile state-society relations in Botswana evident in poor labor relations/state-trade union stalemate, disgruntled youth/high unemployment rate, proliferation of gangs/terror street youth and a highly politicized economic distribution system in Botswana, the state is most likely to unravel. Worse still, state-society relations is most likely to be characterized by distrust. Such a misgiving is tantamount to total paranoia.

Khumoetsikle Kgosidialwa is Founder/Executive Director of Africa Foundation For Human Security(AFHS)- A  think tank organization (registered in Botswana through a notarial deed of trust ) mandated to promote commitment and build capacity for Conflict Management and Peace-Building through the Human Security approach. Please contact  +267 77637694/ afhs@mail.com



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