To serve and kill

15 August 2013
Author  

The increasing lawlessness among members of the various branches of our security forces has reached disastrous level. This is by no means a new problem, but an issue that has persistently plagued our security forces ever since independence.

However, two incidents in the past two weeks has thrown the danger that out of control security force members and law enforcement officials pose to the public into sharp relief.

First came the incident last week when a Namibian Defence Force soldier shot and killed someone he had a quarrel with in the Greenwell Matongo residential area.

Shortly thereafter, a member of the Namibian Police shot a young man dead in Windhoek’s Shandumbala suburb after a petty quarrel over the way the victim crossed the street.

These tragic and ugly incidents are by no means confined to Windhoek but occur with frightening regularity right across the country, with recent killings by security force members recorded in Katima Mulilo, Khorixas and many other places.

These incidents paint a picture of highly undisciplined, violent and trigger-happy soldiers and law enforcement officials with a tendency to run amok and who pose as great a danger to the public as common criminals.

The frequency with which members of the uniformed services commit so-called “passion killings” against their wives or lovers is particularly disturbing

The most troubling aspect about all this is the apparent lack of concern about these killings at the highest level of Government and by the commanders of these uniformed services.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Minister of Defence Nahas Angula and Minister of Safety and Security Immanuel Ngatjizeko have not uttered a word about this growing menace.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Epaphras Ndaitwah, Inspector-General of Police Sebastian Ndeitunga and City Police Chief Abraham Kanime have not said a word either.

They seemingly find it quite normal and acceptable that their members should go on murderous shooting sprees against innocent, unarmed civilians.

Despite the billions the country spends on national defence, we have less to fear from hostile foreign powers than we have from our own soldiers in our neighbourhoods and homes.

Similarly, it seems as though we stand at least as good a chance of our police officers killing us as violent criminals.

The prevailing attitude appears to be that crimes committed by security force members are no different from any other crimes, and that we should therefore not treat them any differently.

This attitude however reflects a weak understanding of the reality and completely wrong-headed thinking.

The police and defence force spend considerable time and money training their members to a high level of expertise in the use of weaponry, unarmed combat and other means of both lethal and non-lethal use of force.

The taxpayers happily pay for all this in the belief that they will use all this expensive training – in some cases turning them into highly efficient killing machines – to protect us and not to harm us.

Furthermore, the members of the uniformed services swear a solemn oath to serve and protect.

The whole idea of equating violent crimes committed by security or law enforcement officers with those carried out by members of the public is therefore absurd.

The question is what defence and what safety and security are Angula and Ngatjizeko actually ministers of, because there is none?

They urgently need to amend the standing rules and regulations as well as code of conduct of the uniformed services to stamp out these incidents.

Ndaitwah, Ndeitunga and Kanime need to strengthen discipline within their forces, and intensify the training surrounding the duty of soldiers and police officers to serve and protect.

No reason exists for anyone to routinely carry around a concealed weapon in his or her day-to-day life – especially not an off-duty soldier or police officer.

The commanders need to re-emphasise to their members that it is a monumental act of cowardice for an off-duty soldier or police officer to use a gun against unarmed civilians.

Any member found guilty of carrying a firearm outside the line of duty should face instant dismissal from the force.

We as Namibians have a strangely casual attitude to guns and gun violence in general. It hardly seems to shock or bother us to hear of gruesome shooting deaths.

Perhaps one can attribute this to our recent history of armed conflict to free ourselves from colonial oppression, which might have inured us to violence and death.

Maybe, for that very reason we need to open up a public debate about the role of guns in our society.

We also seriously need to consider introducing a law against carrying a concealed firearm.

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WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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