Namibians Harassed

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By Surihe Gaomas Katima Mulilo Residents of the Caprivi and Kavango regions who live along the border between Namibia, Angola and Botswana have complained about alleged incidents of harassment by security agencies from both countries. Although cross-border insecurity is reportedly under control in these regions, some inhabitants have raised concerns about several incidents of harassment by law enforcement agencies in both Angola and Botswana. Villagers who frequently make use of the boundary rivers of the Kavango and Chobe, feel something needs to be done about their safety as they are prohibited from fishing or collecting grass along the river by police agents from these countries. They say when they are found near the river, they are subjected to interrogation by Angolan and Botswana police. There is still confusion over where the actual border lies between Namibia and Botswana – specifically at the Ngoma Border Post, they say. This concern was raised at a debriefing session during Deputy Speaker Doreen Sioka’s recent outreach visit to that area by officials at Ngoma. It was reported the actual beacons that were supposed to mark the boundary are no longer visible. This creates confusion for residents who on a daily basis use the stretch of land that borders the two countries. “The beacons are not seen anymore and the two parties have to come together. Some say the border is some 800 meters from the Ngoma Bridge and people are totally confused,” one resident said. Another resident, a local teacher at Ngoma Michael Walusiku, said he was subjected to harassment by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) while fishing in the Chobe River that borders the two countries. “I went fishing with my children last year when five BDF men with arms questioned me as to what I’m doing,” said Walusiku, who thought he was on the Namibian side of the border. Another man added that this was not the first time that incidents of this nature were happening along the common border. “Our people are always harassed when they go out fishing, so where is the real borderline,” asked one man who also alleged that there had been shooting incidents in the past. During the debriefing meeting, the councillor of Katima Rural Constituency Leonard Mwilima cited the border pass issue at immigration as one of the many challenges facing the Ngoma community. Border passes are supposed to be agreements between two countries that share that border. It turns out, however, that while both Angola’s and Zambia’s border passes are recognized, Botswana does not, and negotiations still need to be held to address the issue to the satisfaction of the residents of Ngoma. Asked about these border incidents, Inspector of the Ngoma Police Station Frederick Nalisa and Principal Immigration Officer John Mayumbelo both stated the security situation was currently under control. ‘There’s always speculation, but the security situation is normal along the border and there’s no threat. We have a very good relationships in solving crimes with the community,” said Mayumbelo. Meanwhile, similar allegations of harassment were voiced by villagers in the Kavango Region who live along the Namibian/Angolan border. One elderly man from the Kahenge Constituency said that whenever he visits his relatives in neighbouring Angola, he was arrested in Angola. “Citizens of the region have many problems in getting into Angola. Why is that,” he asked. Many of the residents echoed the same sentiments adding that they are uncertain about their security when crossing the border into Angola because … when you cross, the MPLA soldiers arrest you, interrogate you and take you to a camp”. One resident added that on July 20 a family crossed the border to cut grass for their house but ended up in police custody overnight and were told to pay N$20 if they are to be allowed to cross into Angola. Governor of the Kavango Region John Thighuru said although the border with Angola was officially closed by former president Sam Nujoma in 1994, it has not yet been officially opened. Five crossing points have, however, been identified for people to cross, but not everyone is well-informed about these points as some villagers cross at the wrong places and end up on the wrong side of the law in neighbouring countries.