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Ex-prisons chief joins secessionist cause
|July 28, 2006
| Ex-prisons chief joins secessionist cause
THE former affiliate of the DTA party accused of spearheading a secret plot to start an armed separatist insurrection in the Caprivi Region is being revived after some seven years of dormancy in Namibia, with Namibia's first post-Independence Commissioner of Prisons, Crispin Matongo, leading the effort to bring the UDP back into action.
At the age of 70, Matongo - a former leading figure in the internal wing of Swapo before Independence, and after Namibia's birth as an independent nation the country's first Prisons Commissioner - now also believes that the Caprivi Region has never rightfully been a part of Namibia, and should in fact be an independent country on its own.
Matongo told The Namibian this in an interview in Windhoek over the weekend.
"We are sick and tired of being governed by people who do not know the origin of the people in the Caprivi Strip.
We are not prepared to remain beggars and parasites from other countries and other governments," he said.
"We want to be on our own.
Once we attain freedom and independence, we will develop Caprivi in the Caprivian way," Matongo said during the interview.
The Caprivi Region is poor, marginalised and undeveloped; it has no cultural, traditional or language ties to other parts of Namibia, and for these reasons it should be an independent country, Matongo argues.
It is with this aim as a central pillar of the political platform of the United Democratic Party that the party is being revived, Matongo says.
The UDP faded into inaction in Namibia after most of the party's leadership left the country with the party's President, alleged secessionist leader Mishake Muyongo, in late 1998.
Other leading figures and active party members got caught up in the arrests that followed on surprise attacks that the alleged armed wing of the UDP, the Caprivi Liberation Army, is accused of having carried out at Katima Mulilo on August 2 1999.
Their arrest, and their continued detention for close to seven years as suspects who are now on trial in the two Caprivi high treason trials in the High Court in Windhoek, however appear to have done little to dampen enthusiasm for the idea that the Caprivi Region should be seceded from Namibia, Matongo's move may indicate.
Since Muyongo's sudden departure from Namibia, the UDP's main presence appears to have been on the Internet, where the party has a website that appears to be run from the United States of America.
On the website, the exiled Muyongo, who has been granted asylum in Denmark, is still reflected as the UDP party president.
According to Matongo, he is now the Chairman of the UDP, whose revival he says started in November last year.
Matongo says he embarked on this political mission after resigning from the Congress of Democrats, which he says he joined in the late 1990s.
During his membership of the CoD, Matongo was the Deputy Chairman of the party's Regional Executive Committee in the Caprivi Region.
He also contested a race, but lost it, to be elected CoD Deputy Secretary General at the opposition party's congress in 2004.
Before his appointment as Prisons Commissioner, he had been a member of the National Executive of the internal wing of Swapo during the 1980s, before Namibia's Independence.
In that time, from 1978 onwards, he was banished from the Caprivi Region for 11 years because of his political activities as Chairman of Swapo in the region, Matongo also says.
Matongo was Namibia's Prisons Commissioner for almost five and a half years from May 1990.
He retired to the Linyanti area in the Caprivi Region, where he was born, after he left the Prisons Service.
Muyongo, who hails from the same area, is a cousin of his, according to Matongo.
It was after he moved back to his home area that he realised that the situation in the region had not changed for the better since the end of South African control over the region and the advent of Namibia's Independence, Matongo claims.
The conclusion that he came to is that the Caprivi Region would only be able to develop if it stood on its own as a separate country.
"You cannot do something while you are still under the armpit of somebody.
You cannot develop yourself in the way you want while you are still under the armpit of somebody," he says.
Like many of the men from the Caprivi Region who have been in Police custody for years as suspects in the two high treason cases, Matongo also charges that Swapo sealed an agreement with a former Caprivi regional party, the Caprivi African National Union (Canu), in Lusaka in 1964 when the two parties merged, with an undertaking that the Caprivi's status as part of Namibia - or not - would be up for discussion once Namibia had attained Independence.
The revived UDP would, however, not wage an armed struggle to achieve this goal, according to Matongo: "We are not prepared to involve in an armed struggle.
Caprivi does not even have a toy gun.
We say our revival of the UDP is to seek peaceful negotiations with the government and other interested bodies."
The party wants to ask Government to unconditionally release all the treason suspects, to repatriate all people from the Caprivi Region who are still living in exile after the exodus from the region that started in late 1998, and to then start negotiations over the future of the region, Matongo says.
He regards each of the detained treason suspects as a political prisoner, and the treason trials as political rather than criminal matters, says the man who was once in charge of Namibia's prison system.
He dismisses the possibility that Government might not actually have an open door and open ears for the UDP.
"No, they cannot just ignore us," he says - but with no concrete grounds to offer in support of this belief.
While the UDP is embarking on a political, rather than armed or military quest to achieve independence for the Caprivi, Matongo at the same time rules out chances of the party contesting elections in that region in order to prove its support.
In successive national elections since 1989, Swapo has steadily increased its share of the vote in the Caprivi.
The UDP has wide support already in the region, and he does not see any need why it would take part in elections, Matongo claims nevertheless.
The party's activities will be premised on peacefulness, he emphasises.
"Provided we use political activity peacefully.
That is the motto of reviving the UDP now," he says.
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