KATIMA MULILO – Former Dukwe refugees, who recently participated in a tripartite voluntary repatriation exercise from Botswana to Namibia, clashed with the Namibian Police in Katima Mulilo on Monday after they attempted to hold a ‘peaceful demonstration.’
The former Dukwe refugees voluntarily returned to Namibia after UNHCR successfully brokered their return after success talks with the Namibian and Botswana governments.
The seemingly pro-secessionist group attempted to march to the office of the Zambezi regional governor, Lawrence Sampofu, to hand over a petition.
The group and their sympathisers, particularly members of the Caprivi Concerned Group (CCG), under the umbrella of the outlawed Mishake Muyongo-led United Democratic Party (UDP), gathered at the Katima Mulilo open market in an attempt to march to the governor’s office.
Muyongo, who was an opposition leader, is exiled in Denmark. He is wanted by the Namibian authorities to be questioned for allegedly masterminding the short-lived 2 August 1999 secessionist uprising that was crushed by Namibian security forces, prompting Muyongo and his supporters to scatter into exile.
The demonstrators’ plans on Monday were quashed when heavily armed members of the Namibian Police intercepted them and ordered them to disperse.
According to UDP chairperson Bothman Ntesa, they approached the station commander’s office to give their notice for the planned demonstration, but they were reportedly cold-shouldered.
“They are claiming that we did not follow the correct procedures of getting the response, of which we did, because I have the knowledge of us taking the date notice to the regional office,” said Ntesa.
He added that despite doing all they were told to do they were not given feedback.
Ntesa said they will regroup and look for a way forward.
“We will follow the correct procedures. We have not stopped, we are still following the correct procedures.”
The group’s petition said the demonstration on Monday is an reaffirmation of the position of the UDP members that “Caprivi Strip is legally not part of Namibia and that the majority of Caprivians want Caprivi to be free and independent as they have the right to self-determination.”
Nampa also quoted Ntesa as saying: “We want the world to hear our cry because since we went to Botswana in 1998, we have been communicating to the Namibian government to resolve the Caprivi political dispute peacefully through a dialogue and referendum, but the Namibian government hasn’t allowed us to do that up to date.”
However the Zambezi regional police commander, Commissioner Karel Theron, stressed that what the group is advocating for is illegal, and they are not going to be allowed to have a demonstration.
“I will not allow people to demonstrate in this region for things which were already answered by the head of state of this country… we will not allow them, not today, not tomorrow, not in the future, for them to come and demonstrate, because of the issues they say is Caprivi – there is no Caprivi in Namibia,” he said.
The regional police chief, according to Nampa said, “I will not answer them because these people were already given an answer by the president of Namibia during a town hall meeting on the same issue earlier this year.”