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Heavily armed police presence ends Caprivians' hunger strike

STAFF WRITER
Dukwi Refugees
FRANCISTOWN: Presence of heavily armed police officers at Dukwi Refugee Camp from Tuesday evening through Wednesday ended the hunger strike that the Caprivian refugees had embarked on in front of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices.

On the eve of the World Refugee Day commemoration on Wednesday, Dukwi Refugee Camp – some 130km northwest of Francistown – resembled a crisis-laden zone with a heavy presence of armed members of riot police, otherwise called Special Support Group (SSG).

Caprivians from Namibia’s Caprivi Strip had planned an indefinite hunger and sit-in strike in front of UNHCR offices in Dukwi in a bid to seek the United Nations (UN) refugee agency’s intervention ahead of the impeding forced repatriation to Namibia.

On May 11, 2018, the  refugees were given two months’ ultimatum to have vacated the refugee camp following the cessation of their refugee status in December 2015. The refugees are resisting voluntary repatriation arguing that their safety is not guaranteed.

The Caprivians are pleading with the Botswana government and the international community to catalyse dialogue between them and the Namibian government over what the Caprivians was colonialism by Namibia.  Refugees here are insisting that the Caprivi Strip is not part of Namibia.

“We have ended our protest because the environment was tense,” Tyson Mojela, the spokesperson of the Caprivian refugees, said.

He said the Dukwi Refugee Camp’s Settlement Commandant, Fortunate Majingo, Dukwi Station Commander, Goitsemang Mokgatle and top Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officers addressed the Caprivian refugees.

According to Mojela, Majingo told

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the protesting refugees to vacate the front of the UNHCR premises within the camp arguing that it is a public space.

“Majingo told us that occupying public spaces is a criminal offence in Botswana,” he said.

He added: “In fact, he was reading from a prepared document. Majingo insisted that failure to vacate the public space would result in President Mokgweetsi Masisi declaring otherwise on us without elaborating”.

Buttressing Majingo’s threatening message, Mokgatle advised the refugees to leave, saying that members of the police, especially the SSG were to be unleashed on them since there were laws governing public places in the country.

Mojela said since the Caprivian refugees are law-abiding people,  they had to disperse on the eve of the World Refugee Day. Mojela said they could not continue with their protests because of fear of the armed police.

Majingo and UNHCR officials could not be drawn into discussing the matter. 

However, assistant minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Dikgang Makgalemele acknowledged and appreciated the support of the Namibian government and UNHCR in implementing the tripartite agreement.

“The tripartite agreement provides the legal framework for the return home of Namibians who have been residing in Dukwi,” Makgalemele said in his keynote address during the World Refugee Day commemoration.



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