11 July 2018

Namibia: Zambezi Residents Denied Bail On Sedition Charge

SIX alleged leaders of a group that the police are accusing of propagating the secession of the Zambezi region from Namibia were denied bail after appearing in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate's Court yesterday.

Having been arrested on Sunday, the six members of the Caprivi Concerned Group appeared in court on charges of sedition (inciting rebellion against the authority of the state), incitement to commit public violence, and obstructing police officers in the execution of their duties.

They were arrested in the Liselo area near Katima Mulilo after the police allegedly received information that a meeting they were planning to hold with supporters of the United Democratic Party (UDP) was meant to discuss the secession of the Zambezi region from Namibia.

The six accused are Edwin Samati, the secretary general of the Caprivi Concerned Group; Aldrin Mahulilo, who is the group's organising secretary; Event Linyando; Chrispin Kakula; Braster Kakula; and Thomas Mulonga.

Deputy commissioner Evans Simasiku yesterday said the meeting was illegal solely because of their agenda, which was to mobilise people to support their idea to secede the Zambezi region from the rest of the country.

They appeared before magistrate Boyd Namushinga, who postponed their case to 20 September for further investigations to be done, and to give the six time to apply for legal aid.

Leading members of the Caprivi Concerned Group have in recent years been making public statements in which they expressed support for the independence of the former Caprivi region as a sovereign state.

The group has also issued statements in which it called on the government to engage in dialogue with the leadership of the UDP, and for the unconditional release of "all Caprivi political prisoners" - which is understood to be a reference to residents of the Zambezi region who have been sentenced to imprisonment after being convicted in the High Court of high treason and other charges.

A supporter of the UDP, Allen Mwilima claimed at the court yesterday that the arrest of the six was unlawful, stating that the meeting they were planning to have was not violating anyone's rights, and that Namibia's Constitution allows people to hold meetings.

"We were not bothering anyone on Sunday when we had our meeting. All we wanted to discuss as United Democratic Party members was the way forward on how to achieve our independence. We just want to be free from Namibia, and live in peace in our country [Caprivi Strip]. However, the Namibian government is failing to have a dialogue with us, and is sending police to make unlawful arrests," he charged.

The UDP, which is a former member party of the erstwhile DTA of Namibia, was implicated in the Caprivi high treason trials as having played a leading role in an attempt to secede the former Caprivi region from Namibia through the use of force.

In the treason trials, an armed organisation formed by the then leadership of the UDP, the Caprivi Liberation Army, was found to have been responsible for surprise attacks which were carried out against government-linked targets at Katima Mulilo on 2 August 1999.

The attacks prompted the declaration of a nearly month-long state of emergency in the then-Caprivi region during August 1999, the arrest of scores of suspected separatists in the region, serious human rights abuses which were committed against people detained during the state of emergency, and eventually the prosecution of more than 130 people in three separate trials in the High Court.

In two of the trials, a total of 31 people were convicted of high treason and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three years to 18 years, while another case is pending in the Windhoek High Court, where eight accused are set to be tried for a second time.

Public prosecutor Esther Jaffet represented the state during the court proceedings yesterday.

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