Dukwe SADC petitioners arrested
29 June 2018 | International
The group, led by their spokesperson Felix Kakula, recently petitioned the Southern African Development Community to block a move by the Botswana government to return them to Namibia.
The Namibian high commission in Gaborone confirmed the incident but dismissed local news reports that the group had been arrested.
Describing the detention to the Botswana Guardian, Kakula said they were chased from the SADC headquarters, placed on a truck and taken to Francistown.
“We are currently in a queue to board the trucks that will ferry us to Francistown. They arrested us on Tuesday in the central business district of Gaborone after we were chased from SADC headquarters premises,” said Kakula.
He admitted that the group had left the refugee camp illegally.
“We spent the night here, at least we are all adults who were arrested. Yes we left without permission,” he said.
After the petition Kakula said they were not against the decision of the Botswana government to send them home, but were worried about the political situation in Namibia.
In a public notice posted on the Botswana government website a week ago, Botswana minister of defence Shaw Kgathi said that a decision had been taken to enforce the cessation clause with respect to the group's refugee status, invoked in 2015.
“All refugees are required to register in person for voluntary repatriation to Namibia from 11 May 2018 to 11 July 2018,” the notice read.
Namibian home affairs minister Frans Kapofi said the government wanted to ease the return of the refugees to Namibia.
“Government is committed to the principle of voluntary repatriation as a durable solution; hence we are working together with the government of Botswana and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure their return in a dignified manner,” Kapofi said.
Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi had warned during a recent state visit to Namibia that the refugees would be regarded as illegal immigrants, should they fail to return home.
The group fled to Botswana after a failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi Region from Namibia in August 1999.
The Botswana government initially planned to deport the remaining Namibians living at Dukwe by 31 December 2015.
However, in January 2016 the Botswana High Court halted the planned deportation of the remaining 880 refugees.
According to Namibia's ministry of home affairs, there are 906 refugees currently resident in Dukwe.
-Additional reporting by Botswana Guardian.