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Police round up protesting Caprivian refugees

MBONGENI MGUNI
Caprivians protesting at the SADC HQ PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
Police this morning broke up a two-day sit-in by Caprivian refugees at SADC headquarters, rounding up the group and sending them back to Dukwi Refugee Camp.

The group of 12 elders arrived at SADC yesterday vowing to sleep in until principals at the regional organisation addressed their grievances. The refugees represent nearly 900 at Dukwi who fled to Botswana some 20 years ago after a bloody conflict in the Caprivi Strip.

The refugees were part of an armed attempt to secede from Namibia, whose military crushed the rebellion amidst allegations of torture and mass executions.

The governments of Namibia and Botswana, together with the UNHCR have since agreed on the refugees’ return by July 11, saying conditions in the neighbouring country pose no threat to the long time Dukwi residents.

After July 11, 2018, the government of Botswana says the refugees will be regarded as illegal immigrants and forcibly deported.

The refugees, however, are resisting a return to Namibia as they accuse authorities in that country of continuing a campaign to persecute Caprivi Strip citizens. The

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refugees are also demanding the recognition of their political organisation which led the secessionist dispute.

A Mmegi newscrew earlier today found the group of 12 demonstrators being loaded into an immigration truck at the Three Dikgosi monument, a stone’s throw from the SADC headquarters where they had been demonstrating. 

“The police said we left the camp without permission, but we are saying we would never have been granted permission to come and demonstrate,” said Felix Kakula, one of the group’s leaders.

“We told the police that we are in a situation where we need to cry out and we cannot do that, without leaving the camp. We knew they would follow us.”

By this afternoon, the group was in Molepolole being processed for the trip back to Francistown.

Many of the refugees who remained at Dukwi reportedly staged a sit-in at the UNHCR’s offices, located within the refugee camp.



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