FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana government has said that it is still in negotiations with the government of Namibia to allow prominent leader, Felix Kakula and four other refugees, who are still under detention at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII), to return to the latter country.
Kakula and his colleagues, Nervous Lutambo, Richard Mosupali, Mikini Smith and Gasper Machana have been in custody at the FCII since September 2019.
Kakula, along with other Namibian refugees from the Caprivi Strip, were declared illegal immigrants after they refused to register for voluntary repatriation at the end of August.
That was after a Court of Appeal (CoA) ruling that gave Botswana the go ahead to remove them. Nearly 1,000 refugees have since been forcibly sent back to Namibia. Until the repatriation exercise, Kakula was the spokesperson for Namibian refugees in Botswana.
Namibia views Kakula and the other four men as a threat. In addition Namibia has requested that in order for the five men to be allowed back into the country they should write letters for clemency. It said that Kakula has made it well known (to the Namibian government) that he will continue his fight to have the Caprivi Strip liberated from Namibia.
Secretary for Safety and Security at the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Pearl Ramoroka told The Monitor yesterday that talks between the government of Botswana and Namibia to allow Kakula and his colleagues back into the country (Namibia) were ongoing.
“They are still at FCII. I cannot say much apart from saying that talks between the two governments is ongoing. We hope that a resolution that favours all the parties will be reached soon,” Ramoroka said.
“They will remain at FCII until their matter is resolved. Because they are no longer classified as refugees, we have no option but to keep them under detention at FCII.”
Last September, Kakula and four
However, on Friday sources said that to this day the five men maintain they will not write the letters. Sources said Kakula and his colleagues have rebuffed constant pressure from the two governments (of Botswana and Namibia) to pen the letters.
It is said that they want to return to Namibia unconditionally. As an alternative, instead of going back to Namibia under the conditions set by the Namibian government the five are said to be pushing for resettlement to other countries willing to take them.
Yesterday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Chief of Mission in Botswana, Arvind Gupta told The Monitor that UNHCR was waiting for the outcome of bilateral negotiations between Botswana and Namibia in relation to the matter involving the five men.
“We can only start processing their resettlement to another country once Botswana and Namibian have finished bilateral talks (and the five men have not been cleared to return to Namibia),” Gupta said.
Despite assurances from their government many refugees were reluctant to go home saying that they feared they would be mistreated.
There were also concerns over the status of 269 people who were born in Botswana and 52 others who have a Botswana citizen mother or father.
Rights groups also failed to convince Botswana not to repatriate the refugees.
The Namibian refugees had fled secessionist violence in the Namibia’s Caprivi Strip in 1998.
The main source of the dispute was that they had wanted the Caprivi Strip to gain independence from Namibia.