WINDHOEK – The remaining Namibian refugees living at Dukwe yesterday petitioned the SADC secretariat office in Gaborone, Botswana demanding that the regional body finds a lasting solution to what they term the “Caprivi political situation”.
The group, led by Felix Kakula, are petitioning SADC over the Botswana deadline of July 11 that if they don’t voluntarily leave that country before the set date they will be deported forcefully.
Botswana has taken a decision to finally enforce a cessation clause with respect to the status of Namibian refugees living at Dukwe, which was invoked in 2015.
This directive by the Botswana Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security came after President Mokgweetsi Masisi visited Windhoek in April and said Namibian refugees at Dukwe, Botswana are no longer regarded as refugees by his government but as illegal immigrants.
Masisi said his government has revoked the refugee status of the group. In a public notice posted on the Botswana government website a week ago, the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security announced that a decision has been taken to enforce the cessation clause with respect to the group’s refugee status, invoked in 2015.
“All refugees are required to register in person for voluntary repatriation to Namibia from 11th May 2018 to 11th July 2018,” the notice read.
The defence ministry said those who register will be facilitated their return to Namibia as per the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement between the governments of Botswana and Namibia, and the UNHCR.
The registration times are from 7.30am – 4.30pm on Monday to Friday.
This directive did not go down well with the remaining 880 Namibian refugees who took their issue to SADC to intervene, saying they will only return home if the Namibian government accepts them as members of the outlawed United Democratic Party (UDP) led by exiled politician Mishake Muyongo.
“How safe is it to return to Namibia if the government did not reconcile with us? We will only return if the Namibian government is ready to receive us as UDP, with our leader in Denmark [Mishake Muyongo] and our chief Boniface Mamili of the Mafwe people. And if it happens that we are forced to leave Botswana, then we will die at the borders. We won’t keep quiet to speak about the solution to the Caprivi political problem. Namibia should agree to that political solution,” Kakula said.
UDP is a political party in Namibia representing mainly people from eastern Caprivi and advocating for the secession of what was known as the ‘Caprivi Strip’.
Following a government directive of September 1, 2006 to forbid all the party’s meetings in Namibia, it is today effectively banned.
In an interview with Kakula yesterday from the SADC offices in Botswana, he said they are not petitioning the government of Botswana’s decision to deport them if they don’t voluntarily leave, but just want SADC to solve their political issue.
“We are here to seek solutions and we are not leaving until we get those solutions, lest we die here. The issue of us returning to Namibia is not an issue of voluntary repatriation. What made us flee Namibia was a political issue, which started a long time ago that Swapo is aware of. The reason we are petitioning SADC is because we want the regional body to solve the political issue in the Caprivi [now called Zambezi]. We want Namibia to agree to peaceful talks with the UDP,” he said.
Kakula maintained that the Namibian government continuously says they are seceding Caprivi from Namibia, which they say is not true. They argue that Caprivi was annexed to Namibia forcefully through Act 10 of 1999.
He said Caprivians were supposed to be asked on their opinions instead of the government unilaterally annexing it to Namibia.
“So, with this issue Namibia should know that people now died while others are in prison. And because of the torture that was perpetuated on the Caprivians by the Namibian government, many are left disabled,” Kakula claimed.
Kakula threatened that they will camp at SADC offices until their case is addressed.
Contacted for comment, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said her office did not get information regarding the petition.
However, she promised to follow up with the Namibian high commission in Gaborone.
Home Affairs and Immigration Minister Frans Kapofi had not responded to text messages sent to him, by the time of going to press.