Caprivi Concerned Group

Do Caprivians Constitute a Nation?

Dear Editor, allow us to respond to an article or letter by “Radical Teachers” which was published last Friday in The Namibian (09 October 2015), titled “Freedom for Zambezians and Basters?”

These teachers argued that the right to self determination is decided “by whether or not a group (of people) could be regarded as a nation”. Without substantiation, they stated that Caprivians “undoubtedly do not constitute a nation” in contemporary politics.

In political science, a nation is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular territory. Surely, from this definition, for all who know the culture, tradition and political history of Caprivians, it can be concluded that Caprivians constitute a nation. They are a distinct people with a common culture, tradition, a common political history, and are concentrated in a specific internationally defined territory.

If being a nation is the only determining factor to qualify for the right to political independence, then Caprivians must be free! Radical Teachers called on Namibians to deliberate on secession and the right to self determination, like the Namibian Editorial of September 18 2015 titled “Openly Debate Secession, for the sake of peace”!

If secession is the appropriate concept for the issue of Caprivi, the point of departure in analyising the issue should be the six internationally recognised criteria for self determination which were used to analyse secession of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia.

The criteria is: 1) existence of a distinct, self defined group which overwhelmingly supports secession, 2) legitimate claim to the territory, 3) a pattern of systematic discrimination or exploitation against the self defined group, 4) central government’s rejection of compromise solutions, 5) prospects of a viable territory, people and state, 6) effects of granting or refusing self determination to the group on regional and international peace.

Now, to what extent do Caprivians meet the criteria above? This is the context within which a fair argument for or against Caprivi secession should be debated or advanced. Arguing within this criteria will filter unnecessary arguments which may not only derail the debate but also infringe others’ rights.

Furthermore, what is the legal framework of secession or political independence in Namibia? There is no article or section in the Namibian constitution which explicitly reads “any group of people have the right to secede”. The right to secession or political independence is embedded in the freedom of thought and expression, and the right to engage in peaceful political activity. These rights cannot be trimmed by any other person, people or law outside oneself.

Besides, the UN and African Charters explicitly guarantees that all peoples have the right to self determination, to determine their political status. Namibia ratified these statutes. There are several ICJ opinions which support the right to self determination.

Article 20(1) of the African (Banjul) Charter states that “colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community.” Doesn’t this right apply to Caprivians, as a people?


By Concerned Caprivians