- We can find weapons of war
- Seek independence of Caprivi Strip
- Write to SADC, UNHCR, BCC, Botswana and Nam Govt
As Botswana persists on the repatriation of Namibian refugees – currently housed at the Dukwi Refugee Camp, some 100km northwest of Francistown – back to Namibia, anger and fury amongst the refugees is growing.
In 1998, Namibian refugees fled from their motherland, Caprivi Strip in the Zambezi region into Botswana following a secessionist crisis.
Caprivians, as people from the Caprivi Strip are affectionately known, have been and are resisting voluntary repatriation to their native country, arguing that the Namibian government is planning to arrest them upon setting their feet in the country.
The refugees are angry at Botswana for allegedly conniving with the Namibian administration to force them to be repatriated. They also accused the Namibian government of being unwilling to have a dialogue with them before returning.
It is against this backdrop that the anger and fury amongst the refugees is slowly but surely reaching a boiling point. They have threatened to resort to violence if the Namibian government does not accede to their demand of making Caprivi Strip an independent state.
“We (the refugees) would like to respond (with violence) to the ill developments that are planned against us, to destroy our future, our history, our identity as a people and finally obliterate us,” reads part of the submissions by Caprivian community in Botswana.
A dossier in possession of this publication has been addressed to the Botswana government and copied to the Namibian government, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Ditshwanelo Centre for Human Rights, Namibian Human Rights (Namirights) and Botswana Christian Council (BCC).
“We would like to inform the world that (Caprivians) have the capacity to seek and find weapons of war. Furthermore, we can also choose violence like what many other liberation organisations did,” warned the refugees in the dossier.
As the refugees’ patience runs out waiting for an amicable solution to the political crisis between them and the government of Namibia, the refugees are resorting to fighting for their Caprivi Strip.
Refugees added in their submissions: “We can also opt for any other means apart from peaceful approach to liberate ourselves from the illegal occupation of our motherland thus Caprivi Strip by the Namibian government.”
The Namibian refugees insisted that the unitary state of Namibia, from its foundation does not and will not include Caprivi Strip because the diamond rich strip was, is and will never be part of Namibia.
Felix Kakula, the spokesperson of the Caprivian community in Botswana, confirmed that indeed the documents were written by the Namibian refugees. However, he refused to be drawn into discussing the contents of the dossier. Both the Namibian and Botswana government professed ignorance about the dossier while SADC officials said the document was yet to reach its offices.
Namibian Police (NamPol) Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga said his office had not received information regarding the threats by Namibians who have been housed at Dukwi Refugee Camp since 1998.
“I did not receive any information about their threats. What I know is there is a good relationship between the Namibian and Botswana governments regarding the voluntary repatriation of the refugees to Namibia,” said Ndeitunga.
In addition, the disgruntled group have accused Namibian authorities of coinciding with their Botswana counterparts to arrest the refugees upon repatriation to Namibia.
To this accusation, Ndeitunga said: “In the past, Namibians were repatriated and no one was arrested. They (refugees) don’t have to fear any arrests. Those insinuations that they are making are news to us (NamPol).”
Commissioner for refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration Likius Valombola said he is not aware of the threats by the Namibian group.
“I haven’t seen that letter, neither has the government of Botswana communicated to us. I am not aware, even my counterpart in Botswana has not communicated to me about the letter.
So what I can say is that as a Ministry have not received such a letter and we do not know of its existence, you are the first person to inform me about the existence of that letter,” said Valombola.
Court records suggest that the Botswana Government attempted to starve 928 Namibian refugees out of Dukwi refugee camp in the Central District.
This emerged when the Namibian refugees challenged the termination of their status as refugees and the decision to repatriate them to Namibia.
Responding to the allegations raised by the lead applicant Felix Kakula at the time, Secretary for Defence Justice and Security Augustine Makgonatsotlhe was quoted by the Sunday Standard newspaper in Botswana denying that the refugees were at anytime removed and forcefully sent to Namibia. He said all those who repatriated did so voluntarily in dignity and safety.
“The only group of people that were at some point provided with food rations were those who on their own accord failed to appear for a mandatory verification profiling exercise conducted in March. It should be noted that everything at the camp is done according to laid down rules and this includes provision of food rations,” said Makgonatsotlhe last year.
He also denied that the refugees were promised favours in return for completion of repatriation forms. For his part, Dukwi Refugee Camp Settlement Commandant Bonang Batekele said at the time that he was surprised by some of the allegations made by the refugees.
“In particular, the fact that the refugees were forced to go back to Namibia is something that caught me by surprise. What also surprised me is the allegation that they link their failure to participate in the verification and profiling exercise which resulted in them not getting food with the repatriation exercise,” he said.
He added that “It is even more surprising when the Applicants fail to tell the court that I personally together with my co-workers worked for long hours to get the applicants back into the system and the rest of compliant refugees.”
Batekele further stated that “those whose rations have been temporarily halted are the ones who absconded from the camp without letting the authorities know their whereabouts.”
Kakula alleges in his affidavit that refugees who refused to complete the forms were denied food rations at the camp.
“Others, with further education opportunities like Nicholas Tonda, were denied permission to go for courses that go beyond December 2015 since that was the deadline for repatriation and we were denied exit permit to leave the Dukwi camp,” he said.
A cessation clause ending the recognition of Namibians as refugees at the camp came into effect on 31 December 2015.
However, these refugees approached the Botswana High Court seeking a restraining order to stop the Botswana Government from implementing the clause.
The refugees won the case.