News and Information
Treason trial: History weighs in
|August 25, 2004
| WERNER MENGES
THE indictment on which the 120 Caprivi high treason accused are on trial in the High Court at Grootfontein is weighty in many respects.
Not only does it contain 278 charges against the accused, and stretch over 133 pages to list these charges and a summary of the uncommonly serious allegations against the suspects, making it probably the most extensive charge sheet yet seen in a criminal case before a Namibian court, but it is a document heavy with history and alleged political intrigue.
The history and politics provide both an introduction and a closing chapter to the indictment, with the context of the case being set out primarily in the first count - a count of high treason - and in the summary of facts that bookend the indictment in its last pages.
In between are listed charges that by themselves would ordinarily already account for an exceptionally grave case.
These include nine counts of murder, three charges of armed robbery, a charge of illegal importation, supply or possession of an arsenal of weapons that included 27 AK47 rifles and four RPG7 launchers, and 240 charges of attempted murder.
But it is from the first count and in the summary of facts at the end of the charge sheet that the historical context and political connotations emerge.
The history is taken all the way back to Swapo's armed struggle against South Africa's occupation of Namibia.
In 1964, the summary relates, Mishake Muyongo decided that the Caprivi African National Union (Canu) would join Swapo in its liberation struggle and would fight with Swapo for its cause.
Muyongo became a vice president of Swapo but, at a later stage, left to join the DTA, which became the main opposition party after Independence in 1990, when Swapo was elected as the country's ruling party.
Then came the alleged secessionist conspiracy - which, according to allegations set out in the high treason count, took place from January 1992 to December 2002.
The summary states:"(A)pproximately 1998 Mr Mishake Muyongo and some of his followers seemed to become discontented with the 'status quo'.
They began holding meetings in the Caprivi Region where a breakaway from the DTA was propagated as well as the idea of separating the Caprivi Region that was an integral part of Namibia, from the rest of Namibia by violent means."
People in the Caprivi were encouraged to flee to Botswana as part of this plan, it is alleged.
They were also encouraged to join the military wing of Muyongo's movement, the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA), which had been created by the central committee of the United Democratic Party - the DTA member party of which Muyongo was the leader, the indictment states.
After Victor Falali, a "rebel" who had decided to leave Muyongo's "army", was killed by other adherents to the separatist idea near Linyanti in October 1998, the remainder of the "army", numbering 92, left Namibia to cross into Botswana, according to the charge sheet.
There most of them were kept at the Dukwe refugee camp, from where some were repatriated to Namibia and others escaped to go to "rebel bases" in Namibia, Zambia and Angola with the intent to establish an army to overthrow the Namibian Government in the Caprivi Region.
"Various rebel bases were established for the purpose of establishing and training the army and its members included inter alia some of the accused before Court," states the indictment.
Then came the surprise attacks that blew the cover on the alleged secessionist plot, and severely dented Namibia's post-Independence image as a peaceful democracy.
"On the 1st August 1999, the rebels who included some of the accused before Court who were to attack the Namibian Government in the Caprivi Region, came together at Makanga rebel base," the charge sheet reads.
Makanga is a village some 70 kilometres southwest of Katima Mulilo.
Situated just south of the Katima Mulilo-Kongola main road, it is alleged to have been a hotbed of secessionist activity - and also to have been the site of a public meeting where Muyongo told his audience in the early days of September 1998 that he was leaving Parliament to focus on seceding the Caprivi Region.
"These rebels were divided in groups which had to attack certain targets in the Caprivi Region," says the charge sheet.
"The rebels were transported by various motor vehicles to the various points of attack, namely Mpacha (army) base, Katounyana Special Field Force base just outside Katima Mulilo, Katima Mulilo Police Station, Wenela Border Post, the Katima Mulilo town centre, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation in Katima Mulilo and the house of Sgt.
Liswani Patrick Mabuku."
These targets were attacked with a variety of weapons on the morning of August 2 1999, the indictment states.
The attackers killed eight people, and wounded several.
Afterwards, they gathered at rebel bases at Kaliyangile, a little over 10 km northeast of Makanga, and Masokotwane, almost 40 km south of Katima Mulilo, with the aim of regrouping militarily and remobilising the CLA to take over the authority of the State in the Caprivi Region, it is charged.
The attacks were carried out by the accused charged in the high treason case and by other persons, numbering "more than 150 or thereabouts", according to the indictment.
At this stage, there are 120 people - among them alleged "rebel" attackers and "supporters" alike - before the court.
The charge sheet sets out not only actions alleged to have been aimed at achieving the secession of the Caprivi Region by military means.
Inaction, too, is claimed to have been criminal, whereafter "the proposed coup d'etat or conspiracy" came to someone's knowledge the person failed to report it to the authorities or Police without further taking part in it, it is charged.
Of the 120 on trial, 107 pleaded not guilty on March 15 this year.
On Monday, the Judge noted down pleas of not guilty on behalf of the remaining 13, who have refused to plead to the charges in a court whose jurisdiction over them they do not acknowledge.
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