Lukato petitions UN chief

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Katima Mulilo

National Democratic Party (NDP) president Martin Lukato has declared his support for the little-known Caprivi Concerned Group (CCG), which he claims to have founded.
CCG, which harbours secession sentiments in the Zambezi Region, has consistently advocated for what it calls an “independent Caprivi”. It has also called for a referendum on the region.

The same group called for the boycott of general elections in Zambezi last year and has of late submitted several petitions to regional and world bodies such as SADC and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in pursuit of a solution to what it terms the “Caprivi political crisis”. Lukato, who despite the latest development paradoxically participated in Namibia’s elections last year but failed to get any seat, wrote in a petition he supposedly sent to the UNHCR in Botswana and Namibia, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN country representative in Namibia, Musinga Bandora, that he is in support of the CCG. He says peaceful political dialogue is needed to resolve the “Caprivi political crisis”.

“I am calling for a peaceful dialogue for the Caprivi issue, which is now called Zambezi, a name imposed on us by the Swapo government. NDP is protesting this in support of the Caprivi Concerned Group. I am the founder and the chairperson of Caprivi Concerned Group, which we founded many years back to fight for the rights of Caprivians,” added Lukato.

Lukato’s petition follows a spat he had with Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu over a week ago during a stakeholders meeting with the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) on preparations for the forthcoming regional elections that resulted in him being ejected from the meeting.

He is said to have raised the issue of the Zambezi name change and the neutrality of Sampofu to chair the ECN meeting and repeated this several times despite being warned that it was not the right platform to air such concerns.

Lukato noted that a political dialogue should be discussed among stakeholders he considers to be the only potential solution to the current crisis.

“Stakeholders such as the Swapo government, the United Democratic Party (UDP) under the leadership of Mishake Muyongo, the National Democratic Party (NDP) led by myself and the revived Caprivi National Union (CANU) led by acting president Baxter Kulobone. The issue of Caprivi should be discussed by the aforementioned stakeholders,” suggests the former policeman.

He further pledges his support for deposed Mafwe chief Boniface Bebi Mamili and claims he still recognizes the exiled Mamili as chief of the Mafwe tribe, as well as other UDP leaders who fled Namibia with him.

“Among those Caprivians is Mafwe chief Boniface Bebi Mamili. Even now the NDP still recognizes him as the overall king of the Mafwe ethnic group as he was not expelled by his subjects but left the country after harassment by Namibia security forces. It also recognizes the leadership of UDP’s Mishake Muyongo and others,” said a defiant Lukato.

UDP has been banned in Namibia following the short-lived secession attacks of 1999, which were crushed by the Namibia Defence Force (NDF).

Lukato who further called for a referendum claimed Namibian refugees in Botswana already handed in their petition to the United Nations office in Botswana in protest of what he says to be their forced return without peaceful political dialogue.

“According to the UN charter on refugee status, if a refugee is likely to face persecution in their country of origin, the refugee in question has the right to request the United Nations and the host country to let them stay until a solution is found,” noted Lukato.

Namibian refugees in Botswana have been given until the end of December this year to voluntarily return home following a decision that was taken by both the Namibian and Botswana governments in March this year.

In efforts aimed at luring refugees back home, the Namibian government has offered incentives such as money and building materials for refugees and has often encouraged them to come back home on a voluntary basis. Those arriving are also issued with national documents.

But pressure groups such as the Caprivi Concerned Group has derailed such efforts claiming that refugees were UDP members and therefore needed a political solution before they could return home. The same group recently fronted refugees by handing over a petition to SADC, UNHCR and the Botswana government in protest of the decision.

Sampofu the Zambezi Regional Governor and the Commissioner for Refugees Nkrumah Mushelenga could not be reached for comment, as their phones were unreachable. Repeated attempts also to get comment from UN country representative Musinga Bandora proved futile.

There are over 900 Namibians currently living in the Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana. They fled to Botswana following the failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi from Namibia in 1999.

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