Cross-Border Lives, Warfare and Rape in Independence-Era Botswana


Bolaane, Maitseo M.M. 2013. “Cross-Border Lives, Warfare and Rape in Independence-Era Botswana.” Journal of Southern African Studies 39 (3): 557–76. doi:10.1080/03057070.2013.823319.

Author: Maitseo Bolaane


During the 1970s, the violence in neighbouring states spilled over into Botswana, making untenable its previous policy of having no army. This article examines the experiences of women in the north-east border regions who suffered violence from South African and Rhodesian soldiers crossing illegally and yet routinely into Botswana. As these incidents show, rape as a weapon of war has a long history in the region, although world attention is more recent. I suggest that a key underlying factor in the cross-border violence was the difficult and incomplete transition from permeable boundaries within a wider colonial space to hard international borders between fully independent and hostile states. As a result, the role of Botswana in the liberation struggle of southern Africa served as the main reason for the regular violations of its sovereignty during that period. The lives of ordinary people straddled the border, and so did the violence of armies, making it crucial to consider the reactions of the people of Botswana to cross-border warfare. I will also use comparisons with other notable contemporary incidents of cross-border violence and cross-border ambiguity, including one incident that took place, paradoxically, in the middle of the country, involving travel on the Rhodesian-owned railway.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape, Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2013

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