The impact of the United States military aid on Botswana’s defence capability and development

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Sub-Saharan Africa’s post-independent nation-building has suffered from various military interventions in politics, arising in part from weak economies, ethnically polarised and unprofessional militaries, and weak institutions of political oversight. Several African states, in partnership with foreign powers, embarked on defence institution-building efforts to develop combat-effective defence forces that are subordinate to civilian authority and support national development while contributing to peace and stability. To avoid the ‘coup pandemic’ prevalent in Africa in the 1960s, Botswana delayed creating a defence force until in 1977. Prior to this, the country relied on a paramilitary force for law enforcement and territorial defence. Botswana’s security was also guaranteed by its colonial linkage with the British particularly the presence of British troops stationed in Francistown to protect the BBC relay station. Using Defence Diplomacy and Historical Institutionalism as working theories, this study assesses the impact of United States military aid on Botswana’s defence capability and development. The study traces the evolution of the state and its defence diplomacy, especially the quest to develop a professional military that supports democracy and development with the assistance of military aid. Grounded in interpretivist and constructivist paradigms and a qualitative design; the study established that whereas the British helped to provide the formative institutional layering and norm-stretching for the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) through equipment, training, and military jurisprudence; the Americans later took over and became decisively involved in supporting Botswana’s core path dependence to professionalise its military, especially from the 1980s. At the diplomatic level, Botswana and the United States share a mutual understanding on the need for defence institution building to support democracy. Both countries accommodate each other on the philosophical framework supporting the operationalisation of military aid through various state institutions. On the defence and security front, United States military aid helped to shape the BDF’s structure and doctrine, therefore, developing Botswana’s military human capital—especially its command and leadership capabilities, combat power, and technical expertise. Furthermore, considerable impact is notable in the airpower domain, where the C-130 Hercules aircrafts have been instrumental in augmenting Botswana’s force projection capabilities for internal operations and multinational missions, offering a decisive capability for defence diplomacy. United States military aid has also bolstered biodiversity and anti-poaching capabilities, and military health infrastructure. At the national level, military aid has not only offered reprieve to the defence budget but has also contributed to the BDF’s indoctrination in the principle of military subordination to political authority, thus strengthening Botswana’s civil-military relations. Executive leadership training for civilian officials was also undertaken to enhance security sector management. In addition, military aid has been instrumental in bolstering Botswana’s civil aviation sector through skills and expertise. These efforts have coalesced to maintain Botswana’s defence institution-building project on its path dependent trajectory, in turn contributing to national development. Despite the evident impact, there are some challenges in the bilateral relationship that need to be addressed. These include inadequate aid programme coordination, bureaucratic red tape undermining efficiency, concerns about lack of political will in the uptake of specific aid programmes, and Botswana’s low participation in peace support missions, which undermine its attractiveness for increased funding. The study established that whereas there has been considerable norm stretching in the BDF (as evident in military subordination); weak parliamentary oversight over defence still exists, suggesting the need for more training and institutional layering in this area. The study suggests that Botswana is an outlier because unlike most countries in the Global South, it created a defence a decade after independence. This allowed for the evolution of other state institutions without competition for hegemony from the military. Cooperation with the United States facilitated the construction of democratic institutions and norms. Botswana’s military was born and socialized into a democratic dispensation. These attributes therefore made military assistance more receptive and successful in the country’s defence institution building efforts. Essentially, military aid has supported Botswana’s core path dependence of democracy and military professionalism. This study demonstrates that developing countries such as Botswana can leverage military assistance from powerful countries such as the United States to support defence institution building and national development.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Geen opsomming beskikbaar.
Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2023.