Foreign policy and defense
Botswana is a nation in Southern Africa. Its capital city is Gaborone. Botswana is a strong advocate of economic and political integration in southern Africa. At the same time, the government is not afraid to pursue an independent line, and the country’s criticism of human rights violations is causing some friction in the region. Relations with South Africa are generally good, while relations with the affected Zimbabwe are more strained.
Botswana was one of the founders of the regional cooperation body in 1980 called SADC (Southern African Development Community) since 1992 and has a secretariat in Gaborone. Today, the 15 member states have set their sights on a common market. Botswana is also one of the five members of the SACU Customs Union, comprising 5 of the 15 countries. Plans are in place for an expanded free trade area, which also includes East Africa.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Botswana for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The SADC has also decided that member states should be able to send peacekeeping forces to deal with armed conflicts in the region. SADC has been criticized for being toothless, not least in dealing with the crisis in Zimbabwe. However, Botswana is one of the more critical voices (see below). The country has also been critical of the African Union (AU), including for passivity in connection with the riots in North Africa in 2011 and the same year’s decision not to obey the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant for suspected war criminals. Botswana has in turn been criticized for lack of solidarity with other African countries.
South Africa and Zimbabwe
Since independence in 1966, Botswana has had strong economic ties to South Africa. Previously, political relations were chilly because of the racial segregation policy in the neighboring country, but since the apartheid system was abolished in 1994, consensus is better. Both countries have taken a similar stance on regional issues. Both have advocated silent diplomacy rather than stated demands and sanctions to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe, which has been a concern in the region since the turn of the millennium.
Ian Khama, who took over the presidential post in Botswana in 2008, has sharpened the tone somewhat against the government of Zimbabwe. The same year, the Zimbabwean regime accused Botswana of training and supporting government-hostile Zimbabwean rebels. Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai also received temporary official protection in Botswana. Khama went against both the AU and the SADC when they criticized the Zimbabwe elections in 2013 as undemocratic. Khama said that Botswana will no longer participate in SADC’s observer efforts in elections.
Van Gyre and violence in Zimbabwe have created large streams of refugees. The large influx of Zimbabweans since the early 2000s has caused a serious crisis in the otherwise tranquil Botswana. The mood in the country against the Zimbabweans is sometimes very fierce: they are accused of crime, for taking jobs from bots Swans and for bringing diseases. Botswana sends back many thousands of Zimbabweans each year, but the refugee stream continues. New legislation was adopted in 2010 to try to stop the flow through stricter documentation requirements and increased inspections of workplaces. Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans reside illegally in Botswana.
Disputes with Namibia
Botswana began building an electric fence along the border with Zimbabwe in 2003, officially to close out wildlife and livestock with foot-and-mouth disease. Many felt that the fence would rather stop illegal immigration.
The crisis in Zimbabwe is also seen in Botswana as a threat to the tourism industry, which has been closely linked to tourism in neighboring countries.
With Namibia, Botswana has disputed an island in the river Chobe (Linyanti), which forms the border between the narrow Namibian Zambezi Strip and northern Botswana. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague decided in 1999 the dispute in Botswana’s favor, and in 2003 the countries agreed on the border crossing along the river. At the end of the 1990s, some 3,000 people fled from unrest in connection with a separatist uprising in Caprivi, which the Zambezi Strip was then called. Most of them returned after UN mediation, but a few hundred remained. A possible source of conflict between the countries is also plans in Namibia to divert water from the Okavango River, which flows through the Zambezi Strip on its way to Botswana.
Following a UN report on murder, slave labor and mass violence in North Korea, Botswana broke its diplomatic relations with the country in February 2014.
Botswana has no military duty. Defense spending has been relatively high for a country with no apparent threat, but it has been explained, among other things, that the military capacity began to be built up only in the 1970s. Since 2007, women have also been recruited to the defense. Botswana has contributed peacekeeping forces in Congo-Kinshasa, Somalia and Darfur in Sudan.
FACTS – DEFENSE
8,500 men (2017)
The air Force
500 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP
3.1 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget
9.2 percent (2017)