Botswana Defence Force

Last updated

Botswana Defense Force
BDF emblem.svg
Botswana Defence Force emblem
MottoThebe Ya Sechaba
(English: Shield of the Nation)
Current form2020
Service branches Botswana Ground Force
BDF Air Wing
Headquarters Gaborone
Website Official website
President Mokgweetsi Masisi
Minister of Defence, Justice, and Security Kagiso Mmusi
BDF CommanderLieutenant General Placid Diratsagae Segokgo
Military age18
Available for
military service
1,230,000, age 18–44
Fit for
military service
871,381 males, age 18–44,
co females, age 18–44
Reaching military
age annually
Active personnel9,000 [1] (ranked 128th)
Deployed personnel50
Budget$537 million (2019) [1]
Percent of GDP2.87% (2019) [1]
Foreign suppliers France
United States
Related articles
History Military history of Botswana
Ranks Military ranks of Botswana

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF, Setswana: Sesole Sa Botswana), the military of Botswana, was 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. [2] [3] [4]



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. [5] 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. [6]

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.

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.[ citation needed ] In 2015 the BDF recruited its first female privates. [7]

Domestic missions

In 1995, the BDF undertook rescue missions during floods that hit major parts of the country. [8] 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 tyres in the operation. [8] During the floods that hit Ramotswa and its surrounding areas in February 2006, BDF teams carried out rescue missions and saved hundreds of lives. [8] In 2009, the BDF provided assistance during the flooding that affected a large community around the Kasane area. [8]

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. [9] [10] In 2020 a BDF soldier was killed along with a poacher during a firefight in the Moremi Game Reserve. [11]

International Peace Support Operations

BDF soldiers conducting a raid in the Bakaara Market of Mogadishu as part of Operation Restore Hope in 1993 2 BDF soldiers on raid in Bakaara Market 1993-01-30.JPEG
BDF soldiers conducting a raid in the Bakaara Market of Mogadishu as part of Operation Restore Hope in 1993

United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) 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.

United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) In 1993 BDF troops participated in the United Nations Operation in Mozambique, the UN peacekeeping operation in Mozambique.

United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR II) From 1993 to 1994, a team of BDF officers participated in a UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda as observers. [12]

Southern African Development Community intervention in Lesotho (Operation Boleas) 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. [12] Botswana withdrew its contingent when the situation was thought to be stable enough to no longer require their presence.

Insurgency in Cabo Delgado In July 2021 Botswana deployed troops to Mozambique to take part in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission there as part of the SADC Standby Force deployed to provide regional support to the Republic of Mozambique to combat the looming threat of terrorism and acts of violent extremism in the Cabo Delgado Region. [13]

Minor Deployments The BDF has also been successfully deployed as part of the UN peacekeeping operations in both Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan. [14]

Currently,[ when? ] 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. [12]


U.S., Botswana Special Forces train together (7535318442).jpg
Botswana Defence Force Target Practice.jpg
Botswana Defence Force Training.

The BDF ground forces consists of the following units: [15]

The BDF Command and Staff College is located at Glenn Valley. [16]

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. [17]

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[ by whom? ] to have been trained through this arrangement.[ citation needed ]

Training Institutions - The training institutions in the BDF include among others Military College, Defence Command and Staff College (DCSC), Flying Training School (FTE), Technical Training School (TTS), Peace Support Training Centre (PSTC), All Arms Battle School and the Joint Technical Training School (JTTS). [18]

BDF Air Wing

U.S. military & BDF personnel load a patient onto a Bell 412 during a joint exercise. 190620-A-NV3840030 (48103168987).jpg
U.S. military & BDF personnel load a patient onto a Bell 412 during a joint exercise.

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. [Note 1] For transport, the Air Wing uses Britten-Norman Defenders, CASA C-212 Aviocars, CASA CN-235s and C-130B Hercules. The latest[ when? ] addition to the transport fleet was an ex-AMARC C-130 Hercules to complement the two existing aircraft. [19] 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

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.

See also


  1. Only 14 CF-5s (both single- and dual-seat versions) remain in service in 2009. [19]


  1. 1 2 3 IISS 2020, p. 462.
  2. Pike, John. "Botswana Defence Force (BDF)". Archived from the original on 28 March 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  3. Pike, John. "Botswana Navy". Archived from the original on 28 March 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  4. Martin, Guy (7 February 2013). "Botswana – defenceWeb". Archived from the original on 21 July 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  5. "Ottawa Citizen – Google News Archive Search". Archived from the original on 2 November 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  7. " Botswana: BDF Recruits First Women Privates". Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Printing". Archived from the original on 26 August 2011.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. Henk, Dan (2005). "The Botswana Defence Force and the War against Poachers in Southern Africa". Small Wars & Insurgencies. 16 (2): 170–191. doi:10.1080/09592310500079924. S2CID   143297356.
  10. editor, Online. "BDF commander justifies 'shoot to kill' against poachers | Sunday Standard" . Retrieved 28 July 2021.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  11. "Botswana – one soldier and one poacher killed in clash on Chief's Island". Africa Sustainable Conservation News. 11 March 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  12. 1 2 3 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 August 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. "IRIN • humanitarian news and analysis from Africa, Asia and the Middle East". IRIN. Archived from the original on 23 March 2008.
  15. The Military Balance 2021publisher=International Institute for Strategic Studies (2021 ed.). pp. 450–451. ISBN   9781032012278.
  16. BDF receives accolades for professionalism Archived 3 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine , 19 May 2013.
  17. "Training Officer Cadets". Government of Botswana. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  18. "Botswana Defence Force". Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  19. "Jane's Sentinel Country Risk Assessments Southern Africa". Ihs Jane's Sentinel. Country Risk Assessments. Southern Africa. Jane's Information Group (26): 94–96. 2009. ISSN   1754-9256.

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Further reading