Some Namibians who have been staying at Dukwi refugee camp were arrested by police officers last Friday and detained at Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants at Gerald Estates as they await repatriation back to their native country. The arrested group are said to have been influencing others to refuse to register for voluntary repatriation.
Police officers arrested United Democratic Party leaders, Felix Kakula, Oscar Njubei, Wise Tiyeho,Muhinda Mubuayeta among others who are part of about 709 Namibians who are refusing to return home citing that they will be persecuted by President Hage Geingob ’s administration. The Namibians say they want an assurance first from their government that they will not be assassinated once they return home. The remaining group in Botswana were part of those who fled in 1999, after violent clashes with Namibian government forces broke out over the disputed Caprivi Strip, which they wanted to cede from the rest of the country.
In December 2018, government of Botswana took a decision to revoke the refugee status of the Namibian after realizing that the situation at their country was back to normal and therefore there was no need for them to continue as refugees. Government then took some of them to Namibia on a familiarization tour to appreciate the situation at home. The Namibians then launched a High Court case challenging government’s decision to evoke the cessation clause. The Gaborone High Court ruled in the Namibians favour but government appealed the judgement. The Court of Appeal then over turned the High Court ruling and ordered that the Namibians should be repatriated home.
Director in the Defence Justice and Security, Thobo Lethage held numerous consultative meetings with the Namibians in an effort to persuade them to register for voluntary repatriation but her efforts did not bear any fruits. Government then took a decision to set August 31 as the deadline for them to have registered for voluntary repatriation or face forced deportation. Yesterday (Friday), the Dukwi refugee camp was swamped by members of the security forces to facilitate the deportation of the Namibian nationals.
Lethage informed the Namibians that they have to register all their properties with the Immigration department to ensure that they do not lose anything. Before his arrest, Kakula told this publication that UNHCR officials have also informed them that they will stop assisting them with humanitarian aid because they are no longer refugees. “The Namibian government has failed to give us assurance that we will be safe once we return home so we fear for our lives,” the seemingly worried Kakula pointed out. Kakula highlighted that they also wanted a clearance from the Namibian government that none of the UDP members will be arrested once they arrive home. He continued: “It is better the Botswana police kill us rather than send us to Namibia where we will be ill-treated. If Botswana government does not want to host us anymore, they should look for a third country willing to accept us rather than returning to Namibia.” Kakula is adamant that some of their colleagues in Namibia are still in prison since 1999 and many of them died while in custody.
Reached for comment in the latest developments, Defence Justice and Security Minister, Shaw Kgathi said he was in Swaziland attending a meeting before he hanged up the phone.