Deadlock over Namibians’ deportation from Botswana
GABORONE, (CAJ News) – CHURCHES have hit a brick wall in their intervention in the wake of tempers flaring at the Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana over plans by government authorities to deport hundreds of Namibians back to their country.
Some 900 Namibians live at the refugee centre having sought sanctuary in the neighbouring country in the late 1980s at the height of the tensions that beset the country ahead of attainment of independence.
Now that peace and stability have prevailed over the years, Botswana authorities are insisting the refugees return to their home country in Namibia to ease overcrowding at the camp, which is located some 130km northeast of Francistown, the country’s second city.
Presently, there are estimated 3 000 refugees at Dukwi camp, predominantly from Namibia and others from Angola, Somalia and Sudan. Namibians are steadfast they would not leave.
The exiles have gone to the extent of seeking legal representation.
While peace prevails in their country, they insist Dukwi refugee camp has been home for decades and they had no means of starting anew in Namibia.
On the other side of the deadlock are Botswana authorities the Namibians’ return to their country was overdue.
Botswana’s Security Minister, Shaw Kgathi, whose ministry is in charge of refugees, had in December conveyed the message to both the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Namibian authorities the intention to release the Namibian citizens from the camp.
In December, Botswana requested those that willing to go back to their native country to come forward. None of the Namibian refugees showed interest paving way for plans to enforce deportations.
Human rights groups have denounced the move insisting conditions must be made conducive back in Namibia for the refugees to return, such as prosecution of perpetrators of violence of the late 1980s.
Churches have interceded to quell a crisis.
The Botswana Council of Churches (BCC) and Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) have initiated plans to meet Presidents Ian Khama and Hage Geingob of the two respective countries, with no success thus far.
BCC Vice President, Gabriel Tsuaneng, alleged Khama had snubbed them.
“We had requested to meet the President to dialogue because we realised that the issue had attracted international attention and was likely to portray this noble country in bad light,” said Tsuaneng.
“Moreover, we were of the view that a lot of things leading to the forced repatriation of the refugees were not done right. The President, however, declined the call for dialogue,” he added.
Vice President of the CCN, Clem Marais, claimed their efforts to engage the government authorities had hit a snag.
He said CCN convened a meeting of the Council of Church Leaders early February in Windhoek.
The Council is an advisory forum comprising of all the titular leaders of member churches with one other senior leader from each church.
The CCL mandated a three-person committee to seek audience with the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to ascertain the official stance of the Namibia regarding the refugees.
“To date we have not succeeded in getting an appointment,” Marais said.
Botswana government’s spokesman, Jeff Ramsay, refused to comment saying he required details of the letter the church purported to have written to Khama requesting a meeting.
There was no immediate response from the UNHCR at the time of going to press.
– CAJ News
Short URL: http://cajnewsafrica.com/?p=12249