Tripartite parley falters again, as Caprivians want referendum
The close to 1000 Namibian refugees in exile in neighbouring Botswana have rejected promises of peace and personal safety and security as well as socio-economic welfare in their native Caprivi region once they agree to a tripartite drive on “voluntary repatriation” to Namibia.
In their submission addressed to the Tripartite Commission, consisting of the governments of Botswana and Namibia as well as the UN High Commission for Refugees, the refugees said: “With due respect, determination and courage the Caprivians in exile would like to inform the Government of Namibia which is ruling the Caprivi by force, the Government of Botswana, the UNHCR office in Botswana representing the United Nations, and the international Community, that we are not in Botswana by mistake or chance, but to liberate our motherland Caprivi”.
The exiles also explained that previous meetings held during the last 13 years, with the said commission and others, whose sole agenda has been the exiles’ voluntary repatriation to Namibia, had proved futile because the said meetings have failed to address the political “crisis” on the ground in their native Eastern Caprivi Zipfel.
As an example of the said crisis on the ground, the submission makes reference to a whole range of human rights violations and shortcomings, including prolonged detention without trial, endless trial of “our fathers and cousins”, discovery of mass graves, torture, cold-blooded murder, the presence of Namibian security forces in villages, political prisoners and the banning of the United Democratic Party (UDP) as well as “cutting and adding” of parts of the Caprivi Region to Namibia’s Kavango Region.
“Endless trial” refers to the ongoing marathon Caprivi High Treason Trial that has been running since October 2003. Since that date, the now only slightly more than 110 of the originally close to 140 ethnic Caprivian males are facing more than 270 high treason charges each. At least 21 of them have since died from various “natural” causes while in police custody.
As a precondition for their repatriation to Namibia, the refugees have issued six demands, which include a presumably UN-supervised South Sudan-style referendum for Caprivi, the unbanning of UDP and dialogue between the Namibian Government and exiled Caprivi separatist leader and UDP president, Albert Mishake Muyongo.
More than 5000 ethnic Caprivians and Khoisan people fled Namibia following a separatist armed attack, which took place in Caprivi in the early hours of 2 August 1999. Namibian military and state security forces were accused of summary executions, torture, enforced disappearances and massive deprivation of personal liberties.
The protruding Eastern Caprivi Zipfel only became loosely associated with South West Africa (now Namibia) by accident following the Second Berlin Conference in 1890 during which the Zipfel became a Germany possession after the British exchanged it for the islands of Heligoland (North Sea) and Zanzibar (Indian Ocean) as part of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty concluded in July 1890. After World War I, Germany was stripped of all its colonial possessions as stated in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and Eastern Caprivi Zipfel remained under South African control. In 1920, South West Africa was placed under the mandate of the League of Nations, while Eastern Caprivi Zipfel remained under direct South African (then a British colony) rule but as a separate entity.
Eastern Caprivi Zipfel was given its own Legislative Council in 1972, which could make decisions concerning its development and had its own national anthem and emblem. Nevertheless, a Commissioner-General administered the Zipfel directly from Pretoria in South Africa.
Moreover, until 1999, certain laws specific to South West Africa and subsequently Namibia were not applicable to the Eastern Caprivi Zipfel. The Application of Laws to the Eastern Caprivi Zipfel Act 1999 was promulgated only in June 1999, extending the laws of Namibia to the Eastern Caprivi Strip.