The Botswana-Namibian Boundary Dispute in the Caprivi:To what extent does Botswana's Arms Procurement Program represent a drift towards Military Confrontation in the Region?

  • C.J.B. Le Roux Department of Political Science, University of Zululand
Keywords: Botswana and Namibian governments, The Botswana-Namibian Boundary Dispute in the Caprivi, Kasikili-Sedudu, Situngu in the Caprivi Strip, Situngu as Luyondo, Singobeka, Mbala and Zoti, World Court in The Hague, Caprivi nationalist movement of Mishake Muyon


The Botswana and Namibian governments are currently involved in a dispute with each other over ownership of the small islands of Kasikili-Sedudu, (Kasikili is the Namibian name for the island) and Situngu in the Caprivi Strip. Like Sedudu, the Namibians also variedly refer to Situngu as Luyondo, Singobeka, Mbala and Zoti. The dispute over Sedudu Island currently serves before the World Court in The Hague, while the dispute over Situngu has been referred to a joint technical committee that has been set up by the two governments. The fear has been expressed that, given the strong national sentiments and heightened emotions surrounding the dispute, the losing side may not accept the World Court's decision on Sedudu Island, which is expected before the end of 1999. Oral submissions started on 15 February and the court is currently preparing its findings on the matter. Should either of the two applicants refuse to accept the Court's findings Southern Africa could very well be faced with a protracted border war in the region. The dispute over the two islands have been going on since 1991 and both Botswana and Namibia's current arms procurement programs have been indirectly linked by some observers to the dispute over the two river islands in the Caprivi Strip. Botswana is reportedly also not happy with Namibia's plans to pump large quantities of water on a permanent basis from the Okavango River while Namibia, in tum, has stopped short of accusing Botswana of aiding the Caprivi nationalist movement of Mishake Muyongo in his search for independence for the Caprivi from Namibia. Muyongo, like the majority of the 100 000 strong Mafwe people in the Caprivi, are Lozi-speaking and shares a cornmon kinship with the Lozi tribes across the border in Zambia.3 The secessionist leadership chose Botswana for political asylum in October 1998 when it became known that the Namibian government was about to arrest them. By December 1998 more than 2 200 Caprivian secessionists, including some 700 from the Linyanti area alone, had fled from the Caprivi into Botswana to escape possible persecution from the Namibian government.