Botswana’s ‘shoot to kill’ policy against poachers which Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism has adopted has caused uneasiness among visiting USA congressional delegation.
Addressing the media on Friday after their three-day visit in the country, the five-member Congressional delegation was at pains to discuss the shoot to kill policy.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake said that they have met with members of the security agents and Department of Wildlife anti-poaching unit and discussed the policy.
“It is a very dicey situation as some members of the anti-poaching unit have been killed by poachers as most of them are heavily armed thus making the country to adopt the stance of shoot to kill,” said Flake but was quick to add that Botswana should adhere to the international rules of engagement.
Democrat senator Christopher Coons was more forthcoming, saying that Botswana Defence Force (BDF) must review their rules of engagement.
“Human life must also be taken into consideration when dealing with the anti-poaching issues,” he said.
Botswana has clashed with its neighbours especially Namibia over the killing of the alleged poaching suspects. Botswana has received a lot of criticism over their shoot to kill policy but Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has maintained that it is the only solution to deal with poachers.
In an interview last year, he said they cannot negotiate with armed mercenaries because their aim is to kill.
“When we meet the poachers we do not negotiate. We just shoot. God will decide what to do with them. I am not apologetic about that,” said Khama at that time.
Compared to other countries that they have visited within the region, the congressional delegation were happy with how Botswana is managing its natural resources especially wildlife but called for regional cooperation on wildlife management.
“Botswana must try to find a regional solution to the wildlife challenges because there is cross border movement of animals,” advised Senator Coons, adding that Botswana has one of the best wildlife management systems in the region.