News and Information

Dukwe's place in treason plot comes to the fore
October 5, 2004


WAS the Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana a gathering point and training ground for people gearing up for a bid to overthrow the government in the Caprivi Region some five years ago? Or was it merely a place of refuge for people who had fled State harassment in Caprivi?

That issue - the role that Dukwe played, or did not play - in an alleged plot to secede the Caprivi Region, emerged as one of the clear, specific points of contention between Caprivi treason trial witness Oscar Mwisepi and defence lawyers as Mwisepi continued to testify under cross-examination in the High Court at Grootfontein last week.

As Mwisepi would have it, Dukwe in essence served as a military training camp for Caprivi Region residents who had left Namibia in late 1998 and early 1999.

According to him, their aim was to prepare themselves for a return to Namibia as part of a separatist army that would establish a new, independent state in that region.

But as defence lawyers - and the high treason suspects that they represent in the trial before Judge Elton Hoff - would have it, there are much more innocent explanations for the supposed military activities at Dukwe that Mwisepi has so far told the court about.

Mwisepi has testified that in the four months he spent at Dukwe from January to May 1999, he and fellow residents were divided into groups, or "platoons", as he described them.

At the camp, these platoons received some weapons training, but because no actual firearms available, this training was done through drawings of firearms that were made in the sand, Mwisepi testified.

He said that through these drawings of AK47 rifles, one of the things they were supposed to have been taught was how to deal with a firearm that had jammed.

Mwisepi pointed out some of the 120 accused on trial as having been among the so-called platoon leaders at Dukwe.

These included suspects Aggrey Makendano, Bennet Mutuso, former Policeman Postrick Mwinga, Oscar Muyuka Puteho, Steven Kwala, Brian Mboozi, and John Samati, a brother-in-law of his, Mwisepi said.

He added that suspects Charles Mushakwa and Oscar Nyambe Puteho had also filled leadership positions at Dukwe.

However, not only Mwisepi's version of what took place at Dukwe, but also his version of what had prompted the exodus from Namibia that led people to Dukwe, would be disputed by the accused, he was told under cross-examination.

Suspects Moses Limbo Mushwena, Martin Tubaundule and Charles Mushakwa would, for instance, tell the court that they had left the Caprivi because of threats and beatings that they had received at the hand of the Namibian Police, defence counsel Jonathan Samukange has already told Mwisepi.

The witness's reply was that nobody had been assaulted.

He claimed that they had been told that if they ever left Namibia to seek refuge in Botswana, they had to claim to have been beaten or assaulted back in Namibia.

Mwisepi also disputed instructions that Samukange and fellow defence counsel Henry Chanda and Jorge Neves received from their clients, to the effect that people at Dukwe were divided into groups merely to facilitate food distribution, and not for the purpose of military training.

Under drawn-out cross-questioning from Neves, though, he eventually acknowledged that Dukwe residents had in fact also been divided into groups for the distribution of paraffin - and that the "platoon leaders" that he had testified about earlier, had been the people in charge of each group's receipt of distributed paraffin.

Mwisepi is set to continue testifying under cross-examination when the trial continues today.

He has already spent seven days in the witness stand, facing cross-questioning from defence lawyers for four-and-a-half of those days.


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