News and Information

UN agency prepares to repatriate Caprivi exiles
April 6, 2005

JOHANNESBURG - About 30 Namibians in exile in the Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana are to be voluntarily repatriated, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) confirmed on Friday.

UNHCR Botswana Representative Benny Otim said the latest group of returnees were part of the 2 400 refugees who fled the country in late 1998 and early 1999 as a result of separatist violence in Namibia's northeastern Caprivi strip.

There are just over 1 000 Namibian refugees still at Dukwe, most of whom fled to Botswana fearing a government clampdown on alleged secessionists.

"The Namibian authorities have already authorised the return, and we have begun preparations to ensure they make it home with dignity.

By the 14th of April we hope to have the refugees on the road," Otim told Irin.

The refugees are expected to travel by road through the Ngoma Border Post, where they will be officially handed over to the Namibian authorities.

The Namibians who wish to remain at Dukwe will continue to enjoy asylum and assistance, Otim added.

Under a tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Namibia and Botswana, the government of Namibia guaranteed that returnees would not be subjected to any form of discrimination or ill treatment on account of their ethnic origin or political affiliation, or for having left the country as refugees.

Magda Medina, a UNHCR senior protection officer in Namibia, said assistance to returnees included a month's supply of food and non-food items.

She noted that most of the refugees were of the Mafwe ethnic group, linked to exiled alleged secessionist leader Mishake Muyongo.

"We hope that the return of this group of Namibians will encourage others to go back home, knowing that the situation is stable back home," Medina said.

After the signing of the tripartite agreement in March 2002, a total of 1 011 Namibians - many of them San Bushmen - were voluntarily returned to Namibia in August and October.

However, the refugees from the Mafwe community have been particularly reluctant to participate in the voluntary repatriation to Namibia, where some of the key figures implicated in the Caprivi uprising are standing trial for treason.

Several people were killed during clashes between separatists and government forces in August 1999.

- Irin News


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