News and Information
February 24, 2005
Posted by: nshr on Feb 21, 2005 - 02:09 PM
Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) calls upon the Namibian Government to opt for a comprehensive negotiated settlement of the Caprivi conflict. The ongoing marathon high treason trial against the more than 130 alleged Caprivi secessionists is alone unlikely to bring about a sustainable resolution of the dispute. Rather, the trial is aimed at bringing about a judicial answer to what is unmistakably a political question. Moreover, the trial is likely to result in long-term imprisonment and martyrdom, as well as deepened hatred and trauma on the part of the alleged secessionists, their families and their tribesmen for many years to come.
“It must be pointed out that what is being reaped now are the fruits of a conflict which has been sown at least 45 years ago and which has been simmering ever since. This conflict is real and has both deep-rooted structural and proximate causes. These causes include latent historical and ethno-cultural factors fueled by socio-economic commissions and omissions. What is happening at the moment are mere manifestations and symptoms of such conflict. This includes the current high treason trial itself. To ignore the existence of this conflict is to our own peril!

As this country’s leading human rights organization active in the field of conflict prevention and transformation, as well as peace building, we believe that a negotiated settlement is not only cost-effective, but also stands the best chance of bringing about restorative justice and hence, a durable resolution of the Caprivi dispute”, said NSHR executive director Phil ya Nangoloh.

Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the prime reason SWAPO launched an armed struggle in 1966 against apartheid South Africa’s occupation was because the apartheid regime was averse to a peaceful settlement of the Namibian dispute. It is therefore ironic that Namibia’s political leaders have apparently not learned from the past and approached the dispute peacefully.

Hence, as an organization dedicated to the sustainable and peaceful resolution of conflicts, NSHR is calling upon committed States, intergovernmental and non-state organizations, competent in the field of conflict prevention and resolution, to encourage both the Namibian Government and the Caprivi separatist movement to seek a negotiated settlement of the dispute.

Background Information:

The present stalemate was triggered by a heightened sense of human insecurity preceded by a series of unresolved charges of political injustices and socio-economic marginalization leveled at the Government.

Hence, the escalators of the present conflict include claims of socio-economic deprivation and divide-and-rule tactics characterized by increased inter-tribal and intra-tribal tensions. The Government responded to these tensions with the deployment of Namibian security forces to the Caprivi Region, which resulted in widespread human rights abuses and a subsequent refugee flight to neighboring countries. The conflict exploded into armed violence, which started on August 2, 1999, when Caprivi Liberation Army insurgents apparently retaliated with a daring attack on several Government installations. This attack prompted a swift reaction by Namibia security forces, followed by the imposition of a state of emergency, under which even more grave human rights violations were perpetrated. These abuses included mass arbitrary arrests and detentions, summary executions, torture, enforced disappearances and prolonged detention without trial.

Named after German Chancellor Count Georg Leo von Caprivi di Caprara di Montecuccoli, the some 20 000 square kilometer Strip, now with over 100 000 people, has a unique history. Up until the end of the 19th Century, the Region was known as Itenge (and sometimes Linyanti) and ruled by the Lozi Empire, as part of the Barotzeland Kingdom. The empire included parts of present-day Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. In the late 1800s, Britain ruled this Strip from the Federation of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia and Malawi), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) or the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (now Botswana).

During the Second Berlin Conference the Strip became a Germany possession after the British exchanged it for the islands of Heligoland (North Sea) and Zanzibar (Indian Ocean) as part of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty concluded on August 10, 1890. After World War I, Germany was stripped of its colonial possessions as stated in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. In 1920, South West Africa (now Namibia) was placed under the mandate of the League of Nations, while the Strip remained under South Africa as a separate entity.

Before Zambian independence in 1964, then Zambian Prime Minister Kenneth Kaunda and the Litunga (i.e. King) of Barotseland, Sir Mwanawina Lewanika, signed an agreement incorporating the autonomous Barotseland Kingdom into Zambia without the Caprivi Strip.

In 1972, Caprivi was given its own Legislative Council, which could make decisions concerning its development and also had its own national anthem and emblem. Nevertheless, the Strip was directly administered by a Commissioner-General from South Africa.

Until 1999, certain laws specific to South West Africa and subsequently Namibia were not applicable to the Caprivi Strip. The Application of Laws to the Eastern Caprivi Zipfel Act 1999 (Act 10 of 1999) was promulgated only on June 24, 1999, extending the laws of Namibia to the Strip.

According to Caprivi nationalist leader Mishake Muyongo, soon after Zambian independence, there was a merger agreement in November 1964 reached between SWAPO (under current Namibian President Sam Nujoma) and the Caprivi African National Union (CANU) (then led by Muyongo) that after Namibian independence, the Strip would be enabled to decide its own destiny. As a result of this merger, Muyongo became vice-president of SWAPO. However, Nujoma disputes this, maintaining that there was no such agreement.

In a nationally televised special address in the beginning November 1998, President Nujoma said that SWAPO found Muyongo guilty in 1980 of “planning the secession of the Caprivi Strip and proclamation of a so-called Republic of Itenge”. Nujoma branded Muyongo and his followers “terrorists” who are “guilty of treason and murder”.

Muyongo maintains inter alia that the people of Caprivi have suffered under the Nujoma government. Speaking from Denmark and referring to the armed attack on August 2, 1999, Muyongo stated in August 1999 that Caprivians have been “left with no choice” but to fight for independence. Muyongo was also quoted as saying: “Sam Nujoma does nothing for the Caprivians. He has nothing in common with us. Our history, our geography, our culture, our traditions are totally different”.
Note: In case of further enquiries, please call P. ya Nangoloh at Tel: +264 61 236 183 or +264 61 253 447 (office hours) or Mobile: +264 811 299 886 or e-mail: nshr@iafrica.com.na

Source: www.nshr.org.na


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