Arguments on the sentences to be imposed on the 30 men found guilty of high treason related to the armed secessionist attacks on Katima Mulilo in August 1999 will start today.
The aim of the attack, using weapons of war, was ostensibly to secede the former Caprivi Region, (now Zambezi Region) from the rest of Namibia.
Deputy Prosecutor-General Taswald July, assisted by State Advocate Amize Adams, representing the State, will first make his closing arguments in the protracted trial that lasted more than a decade.
State-sponsored defence lawyers, Patrick Kauta, George Neves, Clive Kavendjii, Profysen Muluti, Ilse Agenbach, Jonathan Samukange, Victor Kachaka, Percy McNally and Hennie Kruger will then address the court in respect of the types of sentences to be imposed on each of their convicted clients.
The closing arguments are expected to run for the rest of this and next week.
On September 14, the 30 men were found guilty on charges of high treason, murder and attempted murder in connection with the separatist attacks on government-owned installations at Katima Mulilo on that fateful day, August 2, 1999.
Judge Elton Hoff acquitted another 35 men after the State failed to prove their involvement beyond reasonable doubt in the failed plot to secede the said region from Namibia.
The 30 convicted men each face 278 charges, including a count of high treason, nine charges of murder and 240 counts of attempted murder in connection with the failed secession attempts. The treason-accused have been in custody for the past 16 years and the long-running trial has clearly taken a heavy toll on them, with 22 having died while awaiting trial.
The 30 convicted men were separately charged and convicted of taking part in the attacks, or providing support to the vanquished rebel outfit the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA). The court found that they took part in the attacks on the Katima Mulilo Police Station, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC)’s regional office, the Wenela Border Post, as well as M’pacha military base and airport.
They were said to have been under the leadership of the banned United Democratic Party (UDP), led by Mishake Muyongo, who is exiled in Denmark after he fled the country. Muyongo and several other members of the UDP and CLA fled to neighbouring Botswana before the attacks and after the Namibian security forces discovered their underground movement, before enforcing tightened security measures in the region.
Muyongo and former Mafwe chief Boniface Mamili are now exiled in Denmark after Namibia pressured Botswana to send them back to stand trial.
Last month human rights activist and head of NamRights Phil ya Nangoloh informed Judge Hoff that in his view the atrocities committed by the high treason convicts are justifiable under international law.
According to Ya Nangoloh, “the Caprivians” – as he called the men convicted of treason – had acted in “self-defence” when they launched an attack on Katima Mulilo in 1999, in which eight people were killed.
Nangoloh quoted something he called the Castle Doctrine, which he says allows a man to defend his home from intruders. In his view the “Caprivians merely defended their homeland from what they perceived as an unlawful invasion.”