1,000 Caprivian Refugees Reject Repatriation Deal

Mr. Dunbar Mushwena now granted a political asylum in SWEDEN talks to Caprivi Vision in Botswana

By Clemence Tashaya and Risco Lumamezi

THE REMAINING CAPRIVIAN Refugees who are currently living in Dukwi Refugee Camp in Botswana have rejected calls for repatriation from the Namibian government, the Caprivi Vision has established.

Following wide spread reports by a Namibian human rights watchdog (National Society for Human Rights ) accusing both the Botswana and Namibian governments of forcibly repatriating Namibian refugees in Botswana under the disguise of voluntary repatriation, this paper spoke to concerned refugees in Botswana on how true the allegations were and revealed that repatriation started in 2008 after they were informed officially by the station commandant of the camp Dukwi that the tripartite commission were to meet in Francistown and thereafter they would come to Dukwi to address them and talk about repatriation.

The executive leadership of the United Democratic Party who are fighting for the independence of the Caprivi Strip told Caprivi Vision that their request to meet in the Caprivi region in view to find the amicable solution was turned down.

“The idea was ˝gunned down˝ on the spot and people refused entirely to meet us. I remember the High Commissioner was there with the head of mission including his entourage, they were there in Dukwi but unfortunately they met nobody so it was an embarrassment to the High Commissioner Hadino Hishongwa,” stressed Mr Dunbar Mushwena, Chairperson of the executive committee in Botswana who is the Secretary General of the party.

Since 2002, the tripartite commission which composes of Botswana, Namibia and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has repatriated about 2000 refugees voluntarily.

“Even though some of them were not willing but because they were told you go back home, you will be given this and that, unfortunately that wasn’t the case this is the partnership but nevertheless as far as we know the voluntary repatriation of 2002 was not conducive as such because some of our people especially the Baswahas, more than fifteen went missing, some were abducted and even killed so it is the embarrassing situation that we don’t support as UDP members because you repatriate someone, you go and kill him, you promise him to go have employment, you don’t give him or her employment that is very bad but nevertheless that is the duty of the enemy right now,” he said.
Mr Mushwena accused the new Namibian ambassador to Botswana, Mr Hadino Hishongwa for refusing to meet them.

“We refused to meet him in the first place on the basis that there was an agreement or there was a situation whereby the former high commissioner who was known to be Samaria, there was a sort of an initial discussion that was made with her and the leadership of UDP, he even took some of our proposals to the government of Namibia unfortunately they turned down the proposal, we were not happy with that and the high commissioner himself Hadino Hishongwa came with the sole purpose that he was known to be a die hard SWAPO member and he promised the government of SWAPO that `if I am to be the commissioner in Botswana, those people they will be repatriated whether they like it or not so even the former chairman late Mr Francis Sizimbo (former member of parliament ) made some appointments about 3 times, he refused to see Mr Sizimbo so there was no way we were to meet Hishongwa after having refused to meet our leadership,” he said adding that they were disappointed by their plight been turned down.

“So on that point we also turned down because he was not prepared for discussion because repatriation to us is not a doable solution, the doable solution is independence of Caprivi, sit on a round table we discuss peacefully about the Caprivi issue, there is a political crisis, that` s what we wanted and that`s what we are looking for up until now that is the point of contention we are talking about so if they are not willing to sit down then there`s no way we can meet them,” said Mr Mushwena.

He added that the same commission came back in 1999 after having met in Francis Town. “They came to Dukwi camp and they wanted to see us. We refused and we even wrote letters to the government of Botswana informing them that we were not prepared because it was not taking us anywhere. Caprivians who are in Botswana came here specifically to wage a peaceful struggle for the total liberation of Caprivians period,” he added.

“Of recent, there was also a meeting, the same meeting of the commission in actual fact I don`t know if I should mention this one, after the tripartite commission failed to meet the Caprivians, we are not Namibians we are Caprivians, we sat down with the permanent secretary in private. we discussed with him there`s a commit a Caprivian commit of about 8 members. Unfortunately he was told that we could not talk about the independence of Caprivi in a tripartite meeting because the tripartite act did not allow any room of discussion about the issue of Caprivi, the issue of Caprivi is a domestic issue so the matter was `gunned down` according to his explanation to us,” he divulged in this free ranging interview.
The free talking man also divulged about the need to work together as a region in order to foster strong ties and come up with an ultimate goal.

“There is nothing new, there`s nothing else that we left after all when SWAPO was in exile there were no missions of such kinds “go and see, come and tell” Why was SWAPO recognized? Why can’t we be recognized as well? We should be treated the same way and we find it that there is no difference between us and SWAPO. The only difference is that now we are in a black colony of the SWAPO regime and SWAPO was fighting using arms and we as peaceful people only discussed on a round table perhaps that is the difference between us and SWAPO so there is nothing much we share with the tripartite commission, in conclusion we wrote a letter to express our views to the government of Botswana and the UNHCR because they requested us to “go and see, come and tell”.

We wrote a letter where we indicated and endorsed our refusal that we cannot “go and see, come and tell“ because there is nothing new, The only thing that we need or perhaps an appeal to you as a government why can`t you take our case as a doable solution so that we sit down we discuss, bring the Namibian government on the table and bring us so that we sit together and then we discuss, reach an amicable solution there`s nothing wrong after all it is not a mistake for Caprivi to be free that is not the case, there are so many countries that have been freed and we can get our freedom as well,” he further challenged.
However, it is believed that a secret meeting was held in June in Francis Town between the Namibian High Commissioner to Botswana, Hadino Hishongwa, the Botswana government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Caprivi region Governor, Hon. Leonard Mwilima which they agreed to forcibly repatriate Caprivian refugees.
But the Namibian High Commissioner to Botswana Senator Hadino Hishongwa quickly refuted that there was no such a meeting which was held to forcibly repatriate Caprivi refugees but the meeting which took place was a regular annual meeting between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees both for Botswana and Namibia, the government of Namibia, the government of Botswana and accused human rights organizations in Namibia of fueling some fabrications. In fact, he quickly accused the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) for fueling fabrications and lies.

“The meeting we held in Francis Town is our regular annual meetings just like any other countries in the SADC region and indeed in the world and we did not discuss and resolve to forcibly repatriate Caprivian refugees. As far as we are concerned, the UN does not allow forceful repatriation. Namibia as a member of United Nations will not allow such undemocratic things to happen. Even the office of the President of the Botswana government was represented at the meeting. This is madness from Phil ya Nangoloh and he should learn to respect himself and otherwise they get paid for liars,” he lamented.

High Commissioner Hadino Hishongwa explained that almost more than five to six thousands have been repatriated and the rest have returned home safely and many have been reintegrated into the Namibian society.

“We shall tour especially the Caprivi region on the 9th and 10th August with some few refugees accompanied by the United Nations for Refugees for Botswana and Namibia, governments of Botswana and Namibia as well as the media itself. They will visit other refugees who were reintegrated into the Namibian society, meet their families, pastors and friends so that they can see things for themselves and then decide for themselves but not to force them as other propagandists are preaching. We did the same during our SWAPO led liberation struggle and our mission was led by the now Minister of Veterans Affairs, Nicky Iyambo. He led a mission from Angola and Zambia to assess whether there was safety, peace and no harm could be done to our comrades towards our hard won independence. The UN was also our leader in this mission. This is the same thing we are doing for the refugees. The repatriation mission will be led by the UN Commission for Refugees. People want to come back without any force. We follow our UN policy as the guidance to the repatriation. For those who do not want, there are options, either to become a citizen of Botswana or to be repatriated again to other countries of their choice. I have been a refugee for 28 years myself and I know the procedures not what these human rights organizations are telling you,” he said.
But Mr. Phi ya Nangoloh and other concerned citizens are of the opinion that the meeting held on the 8th of June 2010 in Francis Town resolved to repatriate these refugees forcibly.
“We are opposed to the forced repatriation of the Caprivian Namibians at Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana. That is what we believe is wrong. We would strongly recommend that the danger from which and because of, they fled (i.e gross human rights violations in the Caprivi) be brought to an end and their right to security of person be genuinely guaranteed by the Namibians authorities,” ya Nangoloh revealed
Concerned Namibians expressed disappointment on how the Namibian High Commissioner is professing ignorance on the matter.
“It does not matter whether Hishongwa dismissed the allegations. The truth remains that the meeting took place and it was discussed that the Caprivi refugees be forcibly repatriated. What is he afraid of? Do they want to arrest them when they come back home. Remember, we have some others who are dying and languishing in prison without trial,” she lamented on condition of anonymity.

The Namibian High Commissioner in Botswana has accused Mr. Phil ya Nangoloh of “speaking on behalf of the exiled “Secessionist politician, rebel leader Mishake Muyongo” who allegedly mobilized armed rebels in 1999 to supposedly secede the Caprivi region from Namibia quoted the daily independent Echoes in Botswana.

“The government of Namibia dismisses the claims as unfounded and coming from a desperate human rights activist. The Botswana government on the other hand accuses the human rights group of making up an issue to keep itself busy at a time when there is a donor fatigue” reported the echoes.

Concerned Namibians accuses the Honourable Commissioner that he dismissed the allegations that some Caprivians refugees who were also “voluntarily repatriated” to Namibia from Botswana with the assurances of their rights to security of persons, have in fact been subjected to systematic persecution by the Namibian security authorities. They alleges that many Caprivian Namibians have been subjected to execution, torture and other cruel and degrading treatment and prolonged detention without trial for almost ten years while others have disappeared without trace.

“Instead of proving Namibia’s status as a country where rule of law prevails, the Caprivian treason trial has become a stain on the reputation of Namibia’s justice system. This is one of the most telling examples of justice being denied. We are asking Hishongwa to take back his words. Why would Phil ya Nangoloh be compared to Muyongo? Are they same?” she questioned
Concerned Namibians alleges that Hishongwa’s statements to the public were a provocation to the Namibians at large, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) and to the worried Caprivian refugees.
“He should have sense of respect as an Ambassador and if the issue is in the interest of all Namibian people, then it should be told and let it be known. We clearly know that the meeting took place on the 8th June 2010 and why did they not tell us before the NSHR?”

Dismissing the same allegations was the Namibia’s Commissioner for Refugees in the ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Nkrumah Mushelenga saying that the accusations were irrelevant and do not hold any water.
“That’s untrue and it’s coming from a desperate person (Phil ya Nangoloh). These are the same people who are enjoying the suffering of refugees. They don’t want them to come home and enjoy the fruits of independence with us,” he said

“The Refugee Convention of 1952 and the 1967 and the Organization of African Union now African Union (AU) Protocol of 1969 including our own Namibian Refugees and Control Act, there is no word such as “forceful repatriation”. Any repatriation to take place should be voluntarily and self wish. All repatriations are monitored and supported by the International Community. They support us through logistics and finance, so that they see it that refugees are in within their will. Our Namibian Constitution’s Article 21 also explains this clearly,” said Nkrumah Mushelenga

He further explained to the Caprivi Vision that almost more than 2000 refugees have been repatriated since they started in 2002 and so far 931 refugees are still to be repatriated from Botswana. He explained that as a government, they are working 24/7 to make sure that the refugees are safe and not forcibly repatriated and if some decide so, it will be their own wish.
“I was the Co-Chairperson of the meeting in Botswana and what I’m telling you is the truth. People like Phil ya Nangoloh are even the one who instigated these people to flee the country. As Namibia, we are saying come and contribute to the development of the country. We have a very good health delivery system, education and a vibrant industry apart from peace and tranquility prevailing,” said Nkrumah Mushelenga.

Mr. Nkrumah Mushelenga accuses Mr. Phil ya Nangoloh as being interested in seeing the world being crowded with refugees. However, he admitted that they wanted the refugees back in the country and assured that everything will be done in conformity with both local and international laws.
“We have never killed anybody in our 20 years of independence and the Botswana government will never allow a refugee to return back to a country that is hostile and kills refugees. We love our brothers and sisters in Dukwi, Botswana and therefore they should come back and contribute to the development of the economy.”

The Governor of the Caprivi region, Hon. Leonard Mwilima who was also part of the delegation explained to the Caprivi Vision that the meeting took place in Botswana with all tripartite missions to iron out certain issues with regards to voluntary repatriation.

“Yes, I was part of the delegation and the meeting was between the Namibian government headed by the Namibian High Commissioner to Botswana, Senator Hadino Hishongwa, the UNHR and others. This is not a new thing. These are our usual tripartite meetings but we deliberated many things including on how our people should be assisted and be repatriated voluntarily and I will repeat “voluntarily”. There is nothing like forced repatriation. The meeting was to tell them that they should come back home if they want to do so,” he said

The Caprivi Governor also explained that there will be or a “go and see, come and tell” mission headed by the United Nations Commission for Refugees which will enable some of the refugees to come and see some of their former colleagues so that they can interact and see for themselves that the country is now safe.

“We had a meeting for such arrangements in Kavango sometime last month with Mr. Nkrumah Mushelenga so as to strategize on these issues. I led a delegation from the Caprivi region to Kavango after we agreed that we should meet half way to Kavango so that we can work on the “come and see” and “go and tell” mission,” he added

Meanwhile a Botswana publication, the Echo also reported last month that the Botswana High Commissioner to Namibia, Duke Lefhoko admitted that the meeting which was held in Francis Town was meant to discuss the issue of repatriation of the Caprivian refugees in Dukwi not forcibly but according to the United Nations Conventions and policies.
“We held such a meeting and these are done twice annually with the Namibian government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. As a Batswana democratic government, we do not believe in any form of force. All repatriations are by choice,” he explained





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