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UN wants answers on mass graves
June 22, 2009
UN wants answers on mass graves


YESTERDAY was the deadline given to Namibia by the United Nations to shed more light on the alleged disappearance of people following the 2008 discovery of mass graves by the country’s human rights organisation.

In September 2008 the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) claimed it had found several mass graves a few kilometres north of the Namibian border in southern Angola and that such graves were of Namibian and Angolan nationals buried between 1999 and 2002. The human rights group claimed that those buried were rebels and supporters of the Angolan Unita rebel movement who were hunted by soldiers of the Namibian and Angolan armies.

The NSHR subsequently submitted a dossier to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to hold the Namibian Government answerable for the mass graves. “The Working Group has been informed that there were reasonable grounds to believe that enforced disappearances have occurred and are still occurring on a massive scale in Namibia. Allegedly, Namibia’s de facto state of emergency was used to create conditions to perpetrate disappearances,” Special Rapporteur Santiago Corcuera wrote in a letter to the Namibian Permanent Representative at the UN in May this year. He said they had information that a group of 40 men and boys aged between 14 and 56 allegedly disappeared soon after Namibian security forces rounded them up in the Kavango Region between November 27 1999 and December 20 1999. Another group of 18 members of the Kxoe also allegedly disappeared without trace on August 12 2000 soon after they were detained by the First Battalion of the Namibian Defence Force and Special Field Force members. “However, it has been reported that no positive proof has ever been produced and no charges have ever been brought in a court of law,” Corcuera wrote in the letter.

The Working Group was also informed that on August 16 2000 another group of more than 30 Kxoe San villagers disappeared without trace following sweeps by the Namibian security forces at Chetto, Bwabwata, Omega, Mutjiku and Bagani. They were allegedly accused of collaborating with Unita and the Caprivi secessionist group. The Working Group said individual persons allegedly also disappeared in the Kavango and Caprivi regions during that time. “As a result, it is alleged that several gravesites can be found on the Namibian territory, with the remains of disappeared persons,” the UN group said. In 2008 the NSHR claimed that they had found gravesites near Oidilona village in the Omulunga area, at Omamwandi village (some 15 kilometres north of the Namibian border), in the bush in the Okakango Kongolo area (10 kilometres north of the Namibian border), in Oluungu forest near Olupale village, in the Odila village area in Angola and one between Ohauwanga and Oshingadu villages.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances asked Namibia to say whether the NSHR facts are accurate or not, whether specific investigations are undertaken by the Government, whether steps have been taken to assist the family members to ascertain the whereabouts of their loved ones, whether there are any measures in place to bring to justice those responsible for enforced disappearances and whether family members are protected from threats and harassment. NSHR had claimed that the victims who disappeared were allegedly first branded Unita bandits, but were former South West Africa Territory Force (SWATF) or Koevoet members who fought alongside the South African Defence Force (SADF) against Swapo liberation forces before Independence. In 1999 Namibian and Angolan government soldiers together launched an attack against Unita rebels on Namibian soil near Rundu.

NSHR executive director Phil ya Nangoloh confirmed that they had submitted a dossier to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on behalf of the families. “We are glad that the UN has taken our request seriously and is doing something about it,” he said. Ya Nangoloh said the NSHR had no formal information from the UN on their request. The Namibian approached the Office of the Namibian Permanent Representative at the UN, Dr Kaire Mbuende, on Friday and has yet to get their response to the Working Group’s request.


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