By Risco Lumamezi
SPOKESPERSON of the Namibian refugees in Botswana, Mr. Felix Kakula has lashed out actions by Botswana government to cease ARV treatment to refugees next year, saying ARV is another issue.
According to Mr.Kakula “I say, we are in exile to liberate our Country Caprivi Strip, ARV’s is another issue coming in, but we determined to continue with the struggle and never to lose focus.”
Reports have confirmed that the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) ceased its funding in Botswana for the provision of antiretroviral drugs to refugees. This was firstly initiated in 2013 by the former US president, Mr. George W. Bush to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease in Africa.
The programme has provided antiretroviral treatment (ART) to over 7.7 million HIV-infected people in resource-limited settings and supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 56.7 million people as of 2014
As from March 2019, it will no longer provide finance for the treatment of refugees, which also includes Namibian refugees from the Caprivi Strip currently on ARV treatment in Dukwi Camp.
“It is unfortunate that Botswana had always tried and continues to ignore the fact that Caprivi is occupied illegally by Namibia and it is not safe for UDP people to return to Caprivi before a solution is found.” Mr. Kakula remarked.
He added that Botswana should have not been involved or worried to say where are they going to find funds to finance ARV program which is about to be dumped by the United States Government. “Especially with regard to the Caprivians, because we want to go back to Caprivi as soon as the solution is found.”
When asked to shad some lights on how many Namibian refugees are on ARV treatment, the group spokesperson told Caprivi Vision that “I am not in a position to say how many Caprivians bear on ARV drugs because I don’t have that statistics”.
“With regard to the ARV treatment that is coming to an end as there is no funding currently, we have no choice but rather wait for our death than surrendering in the hands of our killers”
Asked for comment on how his UDP party will achieve the liberation struggle of the Caprivi Strip when the host country is facing dilemmas to provide other basic rights to refugees such as access to medical care, and including other incentives provided by UNHCR in the camp.
“The Government of Botswana is not saying they will not provide ARV’s or any medical issues, they only say they don’t have money, and the ARV’s issue does not affect Caprivians only, so it is not our problem alone, but if our Case was attended too, we could not be part of the problem Botswana will face on funding ARVs”
He however pointed out that UNHCR was once in August this year, placed a notice directed to all Caprivians in Dukwi Camp by informing them that “we are no longer persons of concern to then since we are no longer Refugees, We did not receive a reversal note in that respect, but services are being rendered inclusively. UNHCR Botswana has a tail in its legs with regard to the Caprivi issue”.
Botswana government and UNHCR have both revoked their refugee status this year, Mr.Kakula also described the situation at the moment that “Yes we lost our Refugee status whatever we are or called the fact remains we have a problem that need to be attended too. And that problem is a political conflict between Namibia and UDP people.”
“And that home is not safe for UDP people to return there, so it is a fact. We don’t have to be Refugees for the solution to be found, UNHCR remains with no choice when the hosting Country takes a hostile decision like the one taken against us by Botswana Government”.
He shot down allegations raised by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Ms.Segakweng Tsiane that Namibians from the former Caprivi region are not recognized as refugees in the world and have therefore opted for voluntary repatriation, and only the few who are refusing to leave have raised political issues that have nothing to do with that country.
“The PS says we are no longer refugees worldwide, it is not true, and we are not given yet a resolution taken by Geneva over our Refugee status. What is right is that Botswana Government because of their bilateral agreement and friendship with Namibia; Botswana revoked our status to make Namibia happy”.
“But Botswana knows that UDP party is banned in the Caprivi and that people are in prisons as we speak. This is why she admits that we raised political issues that make it difficult because them they cannot decide on them. But again she misses a point by saying we must go back to Caprivi so that we can solve the problem with Namibia. If it was possible to solve this problem while in Namibia then there was no need to run to Botswana. When we go there with this agenda we are just going to prison, this must be known by Botswana.”
He expressed concerns that people who want Caprivi to be free are being threatened by both governments and repatriation has been the last resort for those who fear arrest and detention.
“We went to SADC to seek a solution to the Caprivi political conflict, not for SADC to intervene in a refugee issue. The Caprivi political conflict still remains in the hands of SADC, Caprivians are in exile, Caprivians are in prisons, and Caprivians do not have free expression on the matter that affects them. Caprivians are buried in Mass graves; Caprivians continuously live in fear due to harassment and daily threats from State security agents.”
He further called SADC to intervene on the matter “I also make a plea to Botswana Government not to block SADC as they are doing say the Caprivi political conflict is a bilateral issue between Namibia and Botswana. It is put wrongly, what is the bilateral issue with regard to our Case in Botswana. What I know is the tripartite issue where Botswana, Namibia and UNHCR are involved. So SADC and Botswana are just confusing our Case and give wrong picture to outside world. Botswana should let go the Caprivi political conflict to SADC for a permanent solution”.
Efforts to hear comments from the Botswana Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security proved futile.