Majority of Nam refugees in Botswana to be repatriated

WINDHOEK: The majority of the Namibian refugees residing in Dukwi, Botswana are expected to be voluntarily repatriated before the end of this year, Commissioner for Refugees Nkrumah Mushelenga said on Tuesday.

Mushelenga indicated in an interview with Nampa that so far, none of the Namibian refugees have indicated that they want to be relocated to a third country, and most of them are willing to return to Namibia.

His comments follow media reports that plans are underway to resettle some of the refugees currently residing at the Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana to a third country.

Mushelenga was part of a delegation led by Minister of Home Affairs Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana that visited the refugee camp recently.

Botswana hosts about 3 000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Namibia, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

About 2 400 Namibians fled secessionist unrest in 1998 and 1999, of whom 977 Namibians are still asylum seekers in Dukwi.

More than two-thirds of the Namibians who fled to the neighbouring country in 1998 already returned voluntarily to the motherland without anyone being prosecuted.

“The remaining ones are no longer welcome in Botswana and that government will invoke the cessation clause on them. According to the neighbouring country the reasons for granting them refugee status no longer exist. That would mean they will be stripped of it and will then be in a cul-de-sac,” Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Iivula-Ithana was quoted as saying earlier by a local English weekly.

Mushelenga then encouraged the Namibian refugees in Botswana to come home and enjoy the fruits of peace and stability that prevail in the country.

“Namibia is your home and your ancestral land. You are supposed to feel proud of being Namibians. You know, in Namibia you can always leave and you can always return home,” he said.

Secessionist activity emerged in Caprivi in 1998 led by Mishake Muyongo, a politician and a traditional leader of the Mafwe ethnic group.

In August 1999 the situation worsened with a dawn attack on government installations in Katima Mulilo by the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) which left 12 people dead and led to a fresh influx of refugees into Botswana. At the time the CLA was believed to have links with the Angolan rebel movement National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which was launching raids into northern Namibia in retaliation for Windhoek’s military support of the Angolan government. It was also associated with similar secessionist unrest in western Zambia.

Mushelenga also indicated that currently, Namibia is host to about 4 000 refugees, most of them from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Ruanda.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Botswana continues to pursue the three available solutions, namely voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement to a third country in order to find a durable solution for refugees.

SOURCE: NAMPA