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Namibian FCII refugee detainees told to 'plead for mercy'

CHAKALISA DUBE
Caprivians inside SADC headquaters. PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
FRANCISTOWN: The Nambian government has reportedly told five Namibians from the Caprivi Strip to write letters pleading for clemency before they could be allowed back into the country (Nambia).

The request from the Namibian government was reportedly relayed to the five men by officials from the Botswana government.  The government of Botswana last week started the forced repatriation of Namibians from the Caprivi Strip after they lost their refugee status. 

Sources yesterday strongly alleged that the Nambian government has given the five men, Felix Kakula, Nervous Lutambo, Richard Mosupali, Mikini Smith and Gasper Machana up to three months to have written the letters pleading for mercy.  There are reports that the government of Namibia has been reluctant to repatriate the five men under fear that they may resurrect the fight to liberate the Caprivi Strip from Nambia.

The five men have often made it clear that they will not cease the fight to have the Caprivi Strip liberated from Namibia.  Sources have added that the five men have refused to write the letters (pleading for pardon from the Namibian government).

“They want to be welcomed back into the country unconditionally,” said one source yesterday.      

The four men are reportedly still under custody at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII) in Dukwi.

The families of Machana and Kakula were repatriated last week. Sources have alleged that the repatriation of their families was a strategy to coerce them to write the letters and ultimately join their families in Namibia.  

Insiders have also intimated that it was not yet clear if the five men will be forcibly deported to Namibia and face prosecution for treason-related offences, or if they will be allowed to apply for resettlement in any country that want to take them. Treason-related offences are said to be linked to the 1998 disturbances when the Namibians from the Caprivi Strip launched as strong fight for their independence from Namibia before fleeing the country to seek refugee

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in Botswana. 

Yesterday, Shaw Kgathi the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security said that he was not aware that the five men have been requested to write letters pleading clemency by the Namibian government. “All I know is that the repatriation is going very well.  There are less than 200 people (referring to Namibians who are being repatriated) left and the repatriation exercise will be completed soon,” Kgathi said yesterday.  The repatriation exercise is expected to be completed by next week Monday.

More than a week ago, The Namibian, a major newspaper in that country, ran an article quoting the country’s Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Frans Kapofi as saying while there would be no persecution of the returnees, there was a ‘wanted list’ of perpetrators of the 1998 disturbances.

“We have made it very clear that we do not intend to arrest those who have no questions to answer. There are probably only five people who are still on the wanted list, but those are not part of the larger group, which is coming,” The Namibian quoted him as saying, without elaborating.  However it have been speculated that the five men are Kakula, Machana, Smith, Mosupali and Lutambo.

Besides fears of persecution in Namibia, the refugees and rights groups have raised questions about the status of some of the people being deported. It is believed of the about 1,000,  about 269 were born in Botswana and 52 have a citizen mother or father.

More than a month ago, the refugees lost a Court of Appeal case against their removal from Botswana and deportation to Namibia.

Following the court ruling, the government (of Botswana) claimed the Namibians from the Caprivi Strip have lost their refugee status, and hence were now due for forced repatriation.



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