Caprivi Concerned Group
27 June 2018 Katima Mulilo,
We are here today to send a message of peace to the United Democratic Party (UDP), the Namibian and Botswana governments, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as the way forward.
We have carefully observed recent events in Botswana and here at home which are meant to frustrate the United Democratic Party and its people. These events include the detention and threats of forceful deportation of Caprivians from Botswana; and the disapproval of a UDP peaceful demonstration here at home by the Namibian police two weeks ago.
All along we have been calling for political dialogue and referendum to resolve the Caprivi political dispute, and we have not changed our position in this regard. Caprivi political dispute is a legal and political argument of whether Caprivi Strip is legally part of Namibia or not, and whether majority of Caprivians appreciate being Namibians or they wish to govern themselves. This is a dispute in which lives have been lost, traditional and political leaders are in foreign lands, while some have been tortured and even imprisoned. Hence, it has to be handled objectively, with humility and diligence.
We wish to report here that since having submitted our petition to Government of Namibia last year on August 30, demanding dialogue between UDP and government, we have not received any response up to today. Through our efforts, we learnt that our petition is collecting dust in the Namibian Attorney General’s office. This is the attitude which may compel others to use violence in order to be heard.
Nonetheless, we are still saying, let peace be the means to the end and peace be the end. It is often stated that it is better to be wise than to be strong. There is also a saying that one who uses force fears reasoning. We expect SADC, the two governments of Namibia and Botswana, and the UDP, to exercise wisdom with humility much more than force with arrogance to resolve the Caprivi political dispute.
It is therefore our sincere request that the United Democratic Party and the Namibian government should engage in a mature political dialogue as soon as possible for the sake of peace, human security and political certainty. If UDP leaders and members in exile are to come back home, they should be allowed to promote, and work towards achieving, their political objectives peacefully.
On the other hand, Namibia as a constitutional democracy, must make a clear undertaking that Article 17(1) and Article 21(1)(a, d and e) of the Namibian constitution, which allows inter alia political activities and freedom of expression, shall apply to UDP as a party, its leadership, membership and supporters, as they apply to all political parties and persons in Namibia.
SADC, Botswana and other non-state actors, have a duty to facilitate discussions around this key negotiation point. We thank Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), Ditshwanelo – Botswana Centre for Human Rights, and Botswana National Front (BNF) – an opposition party in Botswana, for sympathising with our people in Botswana and for calling for further negotiations between the refugees and the two governments to find an amicable solution.
It is our humble appeal to them that they continue engaging and advising their government accordingly, and we wish that similar organisations in Namibia will also properly advise their government on the importance of dialogue to resolve political issues.
As Caprivi Concerned Group, we are not saying Caprivi must be free today, but we are saying that the United Democratic Party, or the refugees in general, should be accorded the right to be heard; their human and political rights be protected; and be given appropriate remedy regarding their demands and in accordance with international laws.
We are aware that there is a delegation from Namibia going to meet Caprivians in Botswana tomorrow. This delegation should be informed that the issue is not whether they want to come back home or not, nor whether we want them to come back home or not, but whether they will have the right to engage in peaceful political activities to advance their particular political objectives when they come home.
If you force them back home, where their human and political rights are curtailed or absent, we cannot rule out the possibility of political fire here again which might be more severe than that of 2 August 1999. The best way to prevent war is to remove any conditions which may be a cause of political frustration, such conditions includes violent suppression of political opinions and rights.
Those with ears should hear, and the wise should do the right thing.
We pray that God intervenes.
Mr. Edwin Samati
Caprivi Concerned Group