02 July 2015
CANCELLATION OF “COME SEE MISSION TO NAMIBIA” PROGRAM IS AN ABROGATION OF THE CESSATION CLAUSE AGREEMENT
Namibia and Botswana governments agreed on 6 March 2015 that “the date for the invocation of Cessation Clause in respect to the Namibian refugees in Botswana should be 31 December 2015”, according to APANews and some Namibian news media. The two governments further discussed and agreed to implement the action plan proposed by UNHCR, which includes the “Go See” and “Come tell” visits in respect of these refugees.
Namibia, through Hon. Pendukeni Livula Ithana, stated several times in Botswana and in Namibia that it is desirous and ready for the concerned refugees to come back home through voluntary repatriation, and that it is committed to abide by all relevant international laws concerning refugees or repatriation. These sentiments should be viewed as the basis of the sacred trust earned by Namibia from Botswana and UNHCR, and also be taken as conditions for the Cessation Clause agreement.
However, we are very disappointed that Namibia’s central government and the Caprivi regional council was not represented in the “Come See Mission” community meetings held at Liselo, Kasheshe and Nampengu on Tuesday, 30 June 2015.
Surprisingly, the next day, 1st July 2015 the program was unilaterally revoked by the Namibian government without consulting its partners in the tripartite commission, and refugees were ordered to go back to exile the same day within a specified time frame or they would be arrested. The program was not a Namibian program as an individual state but a program collectively agreed upon and funded by or together with UNHCR and Botswana government, and Namibia cannot therefore decide to alone.
Namibian officials have been preaching voluntary repatriation and peace to refugees in Botswana, but such officials i.e Nkrumah Mushelenga and the the Honorable Minister Ithana were no where to be seen when their partners from a neighboring country came to Namibia on the same subject or program. When refugees come to see and hear the peace preached, they are ordered to go back by the same government which is urging them to come.
In our opinion, the absence of regional or central government in the “come see mission” community meetings and the subsquent unileteral cancellation of the “come see” program by Namibia is a diplomatic insult to partners, a breach of own constitution together with the refugee convention of 1951, and it is clearly an abrogation of the “Cessation Clause” agreement.
The refugees on this mission did not commit any crime. A cabinet directive to ban a political party, can not be treated as a repeal of any law enshrined in the constitution, nor should it be taken as a new law. It is embarrassing. The Cabinet ban on United Democratic Party or the so called conditions alleged to have been violated by these refugees or any individual are contrary to Article 17(1) and Article 21(1)(a,b,d,e) of the Namibian constitution which provides for freedom to form or join political parties, freedom to assemble without arms, and freedom of thought, speech and expression.
Against this background, Botswana government, UNHCR and other stakeholders should consider the conduct of Namibia not only as an indication that it is not safe for the refugees to return to Caprivi without a political solution, but also as an abrogation of the “Cessation Clause” agreement between Botswana and Namibia signed in March this year.
Caprivi Concerned Group
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SA