The Botswana Defence Force (BDF, Setswana: ''Sesole Sa Botswana''), the military of Botswana, formed in 1977. The commander-in-chief is Mokgweetsi Masisi. The main force is the army; there is also an air wing and a riverine patrol contingent attached to the ground forces, with 10 Panther airboats and 2 Boston Whaler Raider class.


At independence in 1966, Botswana made a decision to not establish a standing military and focus instead on development and poverty alleviation, and instead created a small military police force for security. However, cross border incursions by Rhodesian and South African security forces in the mid-1970s led the government to conclude that the country needed a military to protect its sovereignty. The BDF was established by an act of Parliament on 15 April 1977.https://oldsite.issafrica.org/uploads/OURSELVESKENOSI.PDF The BDF conducted patrols along the border with Rhodesia in the closing years of the Rhodesian Bush War. Following the end of the war and the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, attention shifted towards South Africa. Anti-apartheid groups used Botswana as a refuge, and this led to sevel cross-border raids by the South African Defence Force. A turning point was the Raid on Gaborone on 14 June 1985, when South African forces raided the offices of Umkhonto we Sizwe in Gaborone. The BDF came under pressure to stop these attacks, but never managed to fire a shot at South African troops. The BDF set up roadblocks and imposed curfews as a response to the incursions. In 1987 and again in 1990, BDF soldiers shot and killed an unarmed civilian at a roadblock. This resulted in a significant decline in popularity among the Botswana public, which was unused to such strict security measures and began to perceive the BDF as being unable to confront the South African military but quick to shoot at its own people. There were calls to disband the force. During the independence day celebrations of 1990, a BDF paratrooper mistakenly landed on the campus of the University of Botswana, which had become a center of anti-military activism, and was nearly lynched. Public trust improved substantially following the end of apartheid. Following political changes in South Africa and the region, the BDF's missions increasingly focused on anti-poaching activities, disaster-preparedness and response (including search and rescue), support to civil authorities and foreign peacekeeping. A well-respected institution trusted by the political leadership, the BDF has seen its role increase over time to include non-traditional missions such as disaster response and reinforcement of the police during the holiday season and high crime periods. The BDF's professionalism and ability to successfully accomplish any task the government gives it has, at times, resulted in over tasking in support to civil authorities. In 2015 the BDF recruited its first female privates.

Domestic missions

In 1995, the BDF undertook rescue missions during floods that hit major parts of the country. The following year, it deployed soldiers and equipment at Sua Pan in 'Operation Save Sua' to save the berm wall of Botswana Ash (Botash) plant, which was being threatened by heavy floods. The soldiers laid 90,000 sandbags and 12,000 tires in the operation. During the floods that hit Ramotswa and its surrounding areas in February 2006, BDF teams carried out rescue missions and saved hundreds of lives. In 2009, the BDF provided assistance during the flooding that affected a large community around the Kasane area. The BDF also engages in Anti-poaching operations to protect wildlife. BDF soldiers operate under shoot-to-kill orders and have engaged in firefights with armed poachers. Dozens of poachers have been killed or arrested in BDF operations. In 2020 a BDF soldier was killed along with a poacher during a firefight in the Moremi Game Reserve.

International peacekeeping

In 1992 and 1993, a BDF contingent participated in Operation Restore Hope, a United States-led coalition of forces to restore peace in Somalia during the Somali Civil War, and following the end of Operation Restore Hope, the BDF participated in UNOSOM II, a subsequent UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia that lasted from 1993 to 1995. From 1993 to 1994, a team of BDF officers participated in a UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda as observers. Those same years, BDF troops participated in the United Nations Operation in Mozambique, the UN peacekeeping operation in Mozambique. The BDF participated in Operation Boleas, a SADC military intervention in Lesotho in 1998. This operation culminated in a re-training programme for Lesotho Defence Force members. From 1998–99, 380 BDF soldiers formed part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) task force to quell an internal uprising in Lesotho. Botswana withdrew its contingent when the situation was thought to be stable enough to no longer require their presence. The BDF has also been successfully deployed as part of the UN peacekeeping operations in both Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan. Currently, the BDF has its personnel serving on an African Union Liaison Mission in Ethiopia/Eritrea and has military observers in Darfur and Sudan with UNAMID.


Botswana Defence Force consists of three separate service components each of which is commanded by a major general: * 1BDE GROUP, consists of 115 inf, 112 inf, 114 medium artillery, and 1Bde service support battalion. * 2BDE GROUP, consists of 224 inf, 221 inf, 118 medium artillery, and 2Bde service support battalion. * Air Arm command, has its own signals and logistics (HQ at Thebephatswe Air Base) * Defence Logistics Command, HQ at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) in Gaborone * 3 Brigade Group, based in Glen Valley, consists of 111 mar, 177 mechanised battalion and its logistics The BDF Command and Staff College is located at Glenn Valley. The BDF ground forces consists of the following units: * 1 armoured brigade * 2 infantry brigades (one armoured reconnaissance regiment, four infantry battalions, one commando unit, two air defence artillery regiments, one engineer regiment and one logistics battalion.) * 1 artillery brigade * 1 air defence brigade * 1 engineering company * 1 signals company

Military education and training

The training of officer cadets lasts 12 months at the Paje Officer Academy. The course includes basic and leadership skills training. Applicants are required to have at least a bachelors degree. International Military Education and Training funds from the United States are important to Botswana's officer training programme. Over 50 Batswana officers receive military training in the US each year; by 1999 approximately 85% of the BDF officers are said to have been trained through this arrangement.

BDF Air Wing

The Air Wing was formed in 1977 and is organisationally part of the Botswana Defence Force. All squadrons are designated with a Z, which is used as a designation for "squadron". The main base is near Molepolole and was built by mostly foreign contractors between 1992 and 1996. The base is a multi-stage project that included runways, taxiways, extensive shelter and ordnance storage facilities, a headquarters facility and a large complex of living quarters and support buildings. Sometimes referred to as the "Eagle" project, the base has received continual improvements since its inception. Other airports used are Sir Seretse Khama International Airport at Gaborone and Francistown International Airport in Francistown. The backbone of the Air Wing consists of a squadron of former Canadian CF-116s which are locally designated as BF-5s. Thirteen ex-Canadian CF-116s (ten single-seater CF-5As and three trainer CF-5Bs) were ordered in 1996 to replace the Strikemasters, with another three single-seaters and two dual-seaters delivered in 2000. For transport, the Air Wing uses Britten-Norman Defenders, CASA C-212 Aviocars, CASA CN-235s and C-130B Hercules. The latest addition to the transport fleet was an ex-AMARC C-130 Hercules to complement the two existing aircraft. A combination of Bell 412EP and 412SP helicopters are operated by Z21 and perform a variety of functions; search and rescue, medevac, anti-poaching and troop & VIP transport.

Chiefs of the Defence Staff (1966–present)

The former heads of the Botswana Armed Forces were referred to while in office as either General Officers Commanding or Chiefs of the Defence Staff. *1977–1989 Lieutenant-General Mompati Merafhe *1989–1998 Lieutenant-General Ian Khama *1998–2006 Lieutenant-General Louis Matshwenyego Fisher *2006–2012 Lieutenant-General Tebogo Masire *2012–2017 Lieutenant-General Gaolatlhe Galebotswe *2017–Present Lieutenant-General Placid D. Segokgo

See also

* Botswana Defence Force XI





Further reading

* Boubacar N'Diaye, The Challenge of Institutionalizing Civilian Control: Botswana, Ivory Coast, and Kenya in Comparative Perspective, Lexington Books, January 2001 * Mpho G. Molomo, 'The Trajectory of Civil-Military Relations in Botswana,' Chapter Seven of Civil-Military Relations in Developing Countries, 2013. * Sharp, Paul, and Louis Fisher. "Inside the 'crystal ball': Understanding the evolution of the military in Botswana and the challenges ahead." Evolutions and Revolutions: A Contemporary History of Armed Forces in Southern Africa, Institute for Security Studies, 2005, 43–60.

External links

Institute for Security Studies: Botswana
Note: although generally a good source, this site wrongly describes Fisher as "Major General", and misspells his given name "Matshenwenyego".
"Army Commander Accused Of Abuse"
''Mmegi Online'' 7 November 2005. Retrieved 25 February 2006. Example of correct title and spelling of commander's name.
"Production Capability (Botswana), Nuclear"
Janes Information Group|''Janes CBRN-Assessments'' 5 September 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2012. {{Authority control Category:Military of Botswana Category:Military units and formations established in 1977