15 May 2017

Botswana: Namibian Refugees Threaten War

As Botswana persists on the repatriation of Namibian refugees - currently housed at the Dukwi Refugee Camp, some 100km northwest of Francistown - back to their native country, 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 also angry at Botswana for conniving with the Namibian administration to force them to be repatriated.

The refugees are also accusing the Namibian government of not willing 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," warn the refugees in the dossier. As the refugees' patience to wait 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.

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