While the 67th UN General Assembly is in session in New York, we would like to appeal to the 192 member states (or their delegates) and all other participants to explore the Caprivi high treason trial and Caprivi political dispute. Namibian representatives in attendance must be encouraged to discontinue the Caprivi high treason trial, to unconditionally release all Caprivi high treason prisoners, and to seek a peaceful resolution to both the trial and the Caprivi political dispute in general.
Namibia is the only Country in Southern Africa currently having the largest number of political prisoners and the longest on-going high treason trial in Southern African history. Caprivi is the only place administered by the Namibian government that has about two thousand political refugees around the world. If there is any other, Namibia is one of Southern African countries whose government banned a peaceful political organization in this post apartheid era. To date, the political party is banned.
Caprivi political prisoners are all Caprivi high treason suspects and all those convicted of high treason charges in connection with the 1999 Caprivi armed uprising while Caprivi political refugees refer to all people of Caprivi who are displaced across the world as a result of the Caprivi political dispute.
Despite that every five years a Government is elected by people in Namibia; these Governments have successively ignored a political dispute regarding Caprivi Strip (now Caprivi region). These governments (the former and the current) have never attempted to peacefully solve the dispute regardless of its social and economic effects on the Government itself, and the Caprivian population. Our understanding is that the laymen on street (like us) cannot solve complex national political problems; hence it is the duty and responsibility of an elected Government to deal with national issues bravely no matter the odds.
The Caprivi political dispute is a case where the United Democratic Party (UDP) led by Mr. Albert Mishake Muyongo which represents most Caprivians argues that the Namibian government is administering Caprivi by force, that Caprivi is historically and politically an independent state/country. Put simple, it is a case of alleged forced occupation.
The Caprivi high treason trial has taken about ten (10) years while the over a hundred political prisoners have spent about thirteen (13) years in detention before the conclusion of the trial. About twenty two (22) of these prisoners have died while in prison, the latest death was recorded on the 3rd of September 2012.
The Caprivi high treason trial is a marathon trial of people suspected of having planned and attacked with arms in Caprivi on the 2nd of August 1999 to defend their believed country “Caprivi Strip” from the Namibian regime. These suspects were charged with high treason and the trial only began in 2003 after three years of detention. This trial is still on – going today.
We know that Namibia became a State party to the 1949 Geneva Convention I-IV in 1991 shortly after independence. On the 17th of June 1994, it became a member state to both the 1977 Geneva Protocol I and II. It became a State party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 26 June 2002. You may doubt, but it ratified or acceded to the International covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR) on 28 February 1995, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on 30 July 1992.
The situations highlighted earlier are totally contrary to the supposedly democratic and stability image of the Namibian government which signed several international peace and security protocols. The manner in which the Namibian government is handling the Caprivi high treason case and the political dispute is very arrogant. Both the treason trial and the dispute has been vengefully made infinity by the government of Namibia. This is mockery to the principles of liberty and democracy which are supposed to be the foundation and pillars of the Namibian constitutional government and the Namibian society at large.
It may be unrecognizable in New York, but in Windhoek Central prison Caprivi political prisoners are enduring so much physical, social, economic, and psychological torture of which their families at home are traumatized. The Caprivi exiles endure the same experience as those in prison.
Most of the deceased Caprivi political prisoners reportedly died of liver cancer. We assume that government of Namibia poisoned our parents and should therefore refute this assumption by forensic evidence. We have learnt that four people are current sick while in custody and one of them is admitted in the hospital. In the last two months we received two corpses from prison.
Concerned about these situations and hardships in which our fellow Caprivians find themselves, on the 10th of April 2012 we, the Caprivi Concerned Group (CCG) aka “Concerned Caprivians” requested a peaceful demonstration from the Namibian Police for the 13th of April 2012 where we intended to deliver a petition that demands (among others):
- A Political dialogue between leadership of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Namibian Government
- An Unconditional release of all Caprivi political prisoners
- A referendum on the Caprivi political dispute
However, though we never at any point in our petition or any other platform stated that we want to secede Caprivi from Namibia, the Leut. Gen. Sabastian Ndeitunga of the Namibia police denied us to do so suggesting and warning that “any pro-secessionist demonstration whether peaceful or in any whatever form will be construed as supporting the secessionist ideology or the separation of Caprivi Region from the rest of the Republic of Namibia. Hence, the request of the Organizing Committee members based on the aforesaid provision of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia to demonstrate in this regard cannot be approved.”
In real sense, this was a threat of high treason charges towards us. We further received death threats from state machineries in Caprivi for planning to peacefully protest. We felt greatly reduced from complete human beings to little creatures which must beg but never granted even the least human right or fundamental freedom in Namibia. We find it hard to understand why our rights are too limited than others under the same Government.
Government threats, emanating from simply requesting a peaceful demonstration, towards us were widely published by state media houses. We were not surprised that very few people attended our 3rd June 2012 public meeting where we delivered a statement in which we echoed our call for a political solution to the Caprivi political dispute, an unconditional release of all Caprivi political prisoners, and a referendum. State security agents attended the meeting and were among the public. This created a threatening environment such that some concerned members of the public left and some could surely not enter the venue upon recognizing these agents from as far as the entry.
On the 7th of June 2012 the Prime Minister of Namibia, Nahas Angula was reported in a local newspaper of having said that Government of Namibia will only have talks with Mishake Muyongo of UDP if he (Muyongo) denounces secession plans of Caprivi. Mishake Muyongo, the president of UDP then asked what Government of Namibia wishes to discuss with him if not about the independence of Caprivi. We appreciated the responses and even identified these responses as the beginning of the much needed political dialogue that will finally find a permanent political solution.
After patiently waiting for a response from the Namibian Government or the Prime Minister himself to Muyongo’s question but to no avail, our unshakable desire to see dialogue between the two rival parties compelled us to write an open letter to the Prime Minister which was emailed direct to him by the Director of Namrights, (on our behalf) and was published in at least two newspapers to request clarity on the given condition as to what subject would Government of Namibia hold talks with Muyongo if not secession. The letter was published on the 27th of July 2012 but to date we have heard no single word from the Prime Minister or Government.
It seems they possibly undermine us, and they do not care about us and all victims of the Caprivi political situation. Of course we do not expect Government of Namibia to take us seriously because we are ordinary men and women who do not pose any military/violent threat to them, and who at the same time do not have silver or gold. Perhaps responding to us is a privilege and we may definitely not get it since we were denied even the right to peacefully assemble. Our peaceful and humble conduct this far must not be mistaken for a weakness but be seen as a virtuous garment in a troubled nation where the weak would dare to be violent.
Some of us, leaders and members of this group (CCG), are on security surveillance. It must be noted that we are not enemies of the Namibian Government and it (Government) is not our enemy either. We are simply concerned people of Caprivi who would want to see the Namibian government amicably solving its own long pending political dispute that has left the Caprivian population in dismay.
Surely the standing of the Namibian government in the international binoculars should be ambiguous and at shameful when assessed in terms of human and peoples’ rights, justice, political leadership, and the competitiveness to part-take in global or continental conflict resolutions.
We are not the first to call for a political solution to the Caprivi high treason trial. In 2005 the National Society for Human Rights (now NAMRIGHTS) called upon the Namibian Government to opt for a comprehensive negotiated settlement of the Caprivi conflict: “The ongoing marathon high treason trial against the more than 130 alleged Caprivi secessionists is alone unlikely to bring about a sustainable resolution of the dispute. Rather, the trial is aimed at bringing about a judicial answer to what is unmistakably a political question. Moreover, the trial is likely to result in long-term imprisonment and martyrdom, as well as deepened hatred and trauma on the part of the alleged secessionists, their families and their tribesmen for many years to come.”
We are aware that most African leaders habitually wait for foreign solutions to their own African problems and latter claim to have or to implement an African solution when it is too late.
Nevertheless, of recent we have approached several significant individuals and institutions or organizations in Caprivi, including SWAPO some leaders in Caprivi and we are inspired to discover that most of them are similarly concerned about the political dispute and the high treason trial as we do, but they either feel unsecured, less empowered or over-powered by the political muscles of Government, or have no distinct platform to lay their thoughts and feelings about the dispute.
We are also pleased with arguments of Defence lawyers of Caprivi high treason suspects from September 3, 2012 for the discharge of their clients based mainly on the facts that, among others:
- Most high treason suspects were severely tortured upon their arrests
- Many of these suspects were forced to sign for or give (false) confessions
- Many state witnesses were abducted and tortured to give or sign for, false incriminating statements
- The trial has taken unreasonably too long
- There is no sufficient evidence against their clients
- Caprivi high treason charges were largely politically motivated
These arguments surely need international acknowledgment and support because they are not only objective but also scientifically factual. They are undisputable. It is not coincidental that these arguments are also our observations which highly inspired us to attempt a peaceful demonstration, to hold public meeting on June 3 2012 in Katima Mulilo, and to continue calling for an unconditional release of all Caprivi political prisoners and ultimate peaceful settlement of the Caprivi political dispute.
The constitutional basis of our call is in the rights and freedoms Chapter 3 of the Namibian Constitution which includes:
- The right to freedom of speech and expression.
- The right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief.
- That the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable.
- That in any judicial proceedings respect for human dignity shall be guaranteed.
- That no persons shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- That a trial shall take place within a reasonable time, failing which the accused shall be released.
- That all persons charged with an offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law.
We therefore appreciate the Defence lawyers’ effort to fight for the rights of our parents, brothers and family men but we would like them to realize and then educate the high treason prosecution team that there can be no justice at the end if there was injustice at the beginning and unfairness along the way.
There seem to be a very thin barrier between moral duty and a duty for money in this case. Lawyers must not only fix their eyes on money for defending but also exert the highest moral value to prevent the ambiguous and unfair trial from continuing. They must immediately evaluate their participation in the trial that has itself become a crime against humanity.
Despite that, we share the same understanding with Defence lawyers that:
- The state’s case was lost in 1999 when our parents (the suspects) were tortured to extents of suffering broken jaws, broken and fractured ribs, joints dislocations, fainting, permanent scars, and torture-related deaths.
- Fairness of the trial decayed down to below 40% as the state investigation team abducted and tortured witnesses forcing them to give or sign false statements against suspects, some of whom were even repatriates from exile, others very close relatives to suspects.
- The state’s case faded away with time given the unreasonable duration of the trial such that suspects have spent about thirteen years in detention before the conclusion of the trial, and that about 22 of them have already died before they were found guilty or not guilty.
It should be interpreted as double standard if the international community will at the disposal of this comprehensive account of the Caprivi high treason trial and the dispute, leave Namibian government untouched. If ever the Caprivian problems were in a blind spot, surely it has come before you.
It is therefore, our view that international human rights organizations, including keen countries and individuals who have been observers of this devilish trial against Caprivians must step up from observers to saviors.
What puzzles us most is that the Namibian government which is a member of the UN, the Common Wealth, AU, and SADC, which signed several international/regional peace and security protocols, even sending peace keepers to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, etc, and with a greater peace obligation upon people of Namibia or the world, does not want to enter a peaceful conflict resolution dialogue with the UDP leadership despite the magnitude and length of the political dispute, while the UDP leadership which may not be popular on the international stage and may have been portrayed as a violent movement is willing to enter into such a dialogue.
Amazingly, Namibia is one of the countries advocating for the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian people while it at the same time have a similar challenge back home which it does not want to peacefully entertain.
Against the given background of our case, taking note of the fact that 1) about seventeen (17) Caprivi political prisoners have no legal representation to date, and 2) having called, together with others, on Government of Namibia to seek an out of court political settlement since April this year but to no avail, 3) since the only avenue left before us for help is the international community;
We call upon international legal and political forces as Governments and non-governmental organizations, and/or individuals to urgently intervene in the Caprivi political dispute and the high treason trial by:
- Advising or compelling the Government of Namibia to immediately discontinue the Caprivi high treason trial, and to unconditionally release all Caprivi political (high treason) prisoners,
- Creating a fair political platform for, and compel the Namibian Government into, a political dialogue with the UDP leadership to find an ultimate peaceful political solution to the Caprivi political dispute, or
- Recalling the Namibian ambassadors and commissioners from your respective Countries, and significant international conferences.
The Caprivi political dispute and the high treason trial in particular definitely need your urgent voluntary intervention to defend both human or people’s rights and lives. We must make the world a better place for all no matter how far or near, whether black or white, nor rich or poor.
Edwin M. Samati
Caprivi Concerned Group