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Chronology for East Caprivians in Namibia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for East Caprivians in Namibia, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38c014.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1883 - 1884 South West Africa (later Namibia) was colonized by Germany. It is annexed as a protectorate in 1884.
1904 - 1907 German wars against the Herero people resulted in the killing of 75% of their population.
Jul 1915 South African forces invaded South West Africa and annexed it.
May 1919 South West Africa was allocated to South Africa by the Allied and Associated Powers.
1925 Limited autonomy for South West Africa was granted by the South African parliament.
Dec 1946 U.N. General Assembly Resolution 65(I) rejected South Africa's proposal to incorporate South West Africa into South Africa, but requested South Africa to conclude a trusteeship agreement for the territory. South Africa rejected this.
1957 The Ovamboland Peoples Congress, the forerunner of SWAPO (South West Africa Peoples Organization), was formed in Cape Town.
1960 SWAPO was formed.
1964 The Caprivi African National Union (CANU) merged with SWAPO to present a united front against South Africa. CANU head Mishake Muyongo later became SWAPO's vice president.
May 1964 The South African government's Odendall Commission recommended the establishment of "homelands" in South West Africa and proposed a five-year economic and social plan for the territory.
1966 SWAPO's militant wing began an armed independence struggle against South Africa. In October, the U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution 2145(XXI) revoking South Africa's mandate over South West Africa.
1968 - 1969 South Africa established "homelands" in South West Africa, including "Bushmanland" in the Northeast. The U.N. renamed the country Namibia in 1968.
Mar 1969 The U.N. Security Council recognized the General Assembly's revocation of South Africa's mandate by adopting resolution number 264 of 1969.
Jun 1971 The International Court of Justice ruled that South Africa's continued presence in Namibia is illegal. South Africa rejected this opinion.
1974 The Portuguese empire in Southern Africa collapsed allowing SWAPO to re-base in Angola and guerrilla attacks intensified. In December, the U.N. Security Council called for compliance by South Africa with previous U.N. resolutions and the 1971 ICJ ruling. The South African army (SADF) began recruiting San bushmen into its ranks to track SWAPO guerrillas.
Jan 1976 The U.N. Security Council adopted resolution 385 of 1976 calling for South Africa to transfer power to the Namibian people and to allow free and fair elections under U.N. supervision.
1977 The conservative DTA (Democratic Turnhalle Alliance), a coalition of ethnic groups, was founded. It was opposed to SWAPO leadership.
1977 - 1979 Five Western countries initiated peace talks, and South Africa agreed in principle to Namibian independence. The U.N. adopted resolution 435 providing for internationally supervised elections. Ten days later, more than 600 Namibian exiles in Angola were killed by South African troops. South African troops used the Caprivi Strip in northeast Namibia as a base from which to launch raids against SWAPO forces in the region.
1980 Mishake Muyongo split from SWAPO alleging discrimination within the organization against Caprivians (SWAPO is dominated by the Ovambo ethic group). Muyongo then reformed CANU and joined forces with the DTA in opposition to SWAPO. Between 1978-1980, Muyongo and other leaders within SWAPO began questioning the decisions of president Sam Nujoma (Leys and Saul, 1995). CANU itself is split between those who want independence for Caprivi and those who want to support Namibian union. Muyongo asserts that SWAPO is 95% Ovambo and discriminates against other ethnic groups. (BBC, 7/11/1985, 7/17/1985)
1982 A five year plan for developing the Caprivi Strip was adopted. Included in the plan are the building of roads and schools, an improvement of the water supply and the development of agricultural and forestry projects (BBC, 4/13/1982). Former Caprivi-branch SWAPO chairman Ben Makuba accused the organization of kidnapping, murder and discrimination against non-Ovambo members. (BBC, 7/22/1982)
Feb 1983 Speaking in Windhoek, Mr Boniface Likando, Caprivi Executive Committee member, said nobody was leaving Caprivi to join forces with SWAPO and that there had been no terrorist activity in Caprivi since 1978. Asked about secessionist elements in Caprivi, Likando said Caprivi was part of South West Africa/ Namibia and that secession was out of the question. (BBC, 2/10/1983)
Dec 1983 Namibian army officer Col. Henryk Swanepoel said that 122 SWAPO members gave themselves up since an amnesty proclaimed in April 1980. He said the Caprivi members complained they were discriminated against by the Ovambo-dominated organization. (BBC, 12/23/1983)
Jun 1985 SWAPO accused South Africa of planning to maintain control over the Caprivi Strip after independence. Certain elements of SWAPO were expelled in 1984 for trying to separate Caprivi from the rest of the country. (BBC, 6/6/1985)
Sep 1985 Muyongo has played a leading role in establishing a new political party: the United Democratic Party. It is a merger of the Caprivi Alliance Party and CANU. He says it has the support of 86% of Caprivians.
Nov 1987 For nearly a decade, people in Caprivi and 5 other security districts have lived under a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The government said it would scrap the permit system requiring those wishing to visit the area to apply for a police permit. (IPS, 11/18/1987)
1988 Talks between Angola, Cuba, and South Africa, with supervision of the U.S., set a timetable for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and Namibian independence.
Dec 1988 UNITA soldiers reportedly moved into the Caprivi Strip, and there were two recent reports of incidents involving UNITA troops and Caprivi civilians. (BBC, 12/5/1988). Three new political parties have begun organizing for elections, scheduled for 1989. The three: Southwest Africa National Union, CANU, and Action National Settlement, announced a common front to be known as the National Patriotic Front of Namibia (BBC, 12/19/1988)
Apr 1, 1989 As the U.N. independence plan began, SWAPO invaded from Angola. South African forces attacked and killed several hundred guerrillas.
Sep 1989 Dozens were injured in clashes between SWAPO and DTA supporters at a DTA rally. In an earlier incident in Caprivi, DTA supporters disrupted a rally by SWAPO supporters. The DTA has a support base among the white business class and Herero ethnic group and has a large following in Caprivi. (Xinhua, 9/27/1989; Reuters 11/13/1989)
Nov 1989 SWAPO won 41 of 72 seats in the constituent assembly but did not secure the two-thirds majority necessary to form a new constitution without consulting other parties. The San in Bushmanland supported the DTA in the elections. Elections were declared free and fair by independent U.N. observers. Political violence followed the SWAPO victory as DTA supporters went on a rampage in Ovamboland and Caprivi regions. (IPS 11/16/1989)
Feb 1990 The president-elect of Namibia, Sam Nujoma accused South Africa of ulterior motives in resettling San in South Africa. He suggested the South African military was aiming to train the San to carry out subversive activities in Namibia.
Mar 21, 1990 Namibia achieved independence from South Africa. At independence, 60% of Namibia was white-owned or commercial land; 15% was set aside for nature conservation; and 25% was black-owned. Blacks make up 80% of the population.
May 3, 1990 The Namibian government claimed that South Africa did not pay San as promised and they were in need of government assistance. About 500 San soldiers and their families followed South African soldiers into South African after the war because they feared reprisals from SWAPO. Three hundred San soldiers and their dependents remained in Namibia in Omega in the Caprivi Strip. They were reportedly near starvation.
Jun 1990 There were unconfirmed reports of political violence and intimidation in the northern districts of Ovambo, Kavango and Caprivi. Unemployed soldiers were reportedly to blame for the violence. (BBC, 6/23/1990) The removal of SADF from the north has left a huge vacuum in the north with unemployed soldiers roaming the streets. The crime rate soared and clashes between political adversaries, and between police and DTA supporters, were frequent. (Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/1990)
Oct 1990 There were incidents of violence and arson in Caprivi as homes and political headquarters were burned. (Xinhua, 10/17/1990)
Nov 1990 The Namibian government was expected to begin the resettlement of about 2000 San, family members of San who served in South Africa's military during the war, in the Caprivi Strip.
Aug 1991 President Nujoma said the government was very concerned about the reports of lawlessness and tribalism coming from east Caprivi. A commission was established to investigate the social, historical, tribal and political causes of the unrest. (BBC, 8/13/1991)
Nov 1994 SWAPO and DTA supporters clashed ahead of presidential rallies in Caprivi. The rallies were addressed by President Nujoma (SWAPO) and Muyongo (DTA). Caprivi region was hotly contested in the elections. (BBC, 11/28/1994)
Aug 1997 The human rights organization National Society for Human Rights accused the government of discrimination against certain ethnic groups, including some in East Caprivi. In that area, traditional leaders who support the ruling party are enthroned with the government's support while the inauguration of tribal leaders supportive of the opposition are discouraged, if not prohibited, from being enthroned. (Africa News Service (ANS), 8/12/1997)
Apr 23, 1998 About 100 Herero leaders who have not been recognized by the government registered their disapproval with the Local Government Minister's office. They were upset over the criteria used to recognize the country's traditional authorities. The Ministry has been under fire from the Herero and Damara communities, as well as the Kxoe in Caprivi, who are angry that their leadership has not been recognized. (ANS)
May 1998 Botswana and Namibia were in conflict over an inhabitable island in the Chobe River which divides Botswana from the Caprivi Strip. Analysts believe that the DTA is fanning the flames of the conflict in order to embarrass the government. (Daily Telegraph, 5/6/1998)
Jun 1998 John Mabuku, the governor of Caprivi, said the government, not white foreigners as claimed by President Nujoma, are responsible for tensions between ethnic groups in Caprivi. Mabuku accused the government of promoting certain ethnic groups at the expense of others. (ANS, 6/23/1998)
Aug 20, 1998 The Cabinet issued a stern warning to those calling for the secession of Caprivi. The New Era newspaper reported that a delegation of Caprivians, including DTA president Muyongo and Mafwe Chief Boniface Mamili, attended a meeting in Pretoria to discuss the secession of Caprivi. DTA chairman Piet Junius states that his party was opposed to any secession within Namibia and to violence to resolve any political problems in the country. (ANS)
Oct 1998 Parliament voted to amend the Constitution to enable President Nujoma to stand for reelection for a third term in 1999. The Constitution had stipulated that the president was limited to two terms in office. Of the 63 member parliament, 50 SWAPO members voted in favor of the amendment, 12 DTA members voted against it, and 1 Monitor Action Group member abstained. (ANS, 10/16 /1998)
Nov 1998 The United Democratic Party withdrew from the DTA alliance after DTA president Nuyongo was ousted as party leader without its consultation. The UDP reportedly has the support of 30,000 people in Caprivi (ANS, 2/25/1999). DTA president Kaura said that over 3000 Caprivians had been arrested in three week by the security forces. Most of those arrested were released after 48 hours in custody. The DTA also restated is opposition to all forms of violence to obtain political objectives, but also pointed out that SWAPO had promised Muyongo that Caprivi could have autonomy/independence after Namibia was liberated from South Africa. (ANS, 11/11/1998). A member of the Barotse Patriotic Front in Zambia said there had been a lot of contacts between it and the leaders of Caprivi's secessionist movement. The Mafwe and Lozi are kin, and there has been a tradition of secession within the region. Also, the underdevelopment of Caprivi sharpened the resentment of Caprivians toward the government. (United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), 11/13/1998)
Nov 16, 1998 A notion was filed in the High Court to challenge a controversial bill allowing Nujoma's term in office to be extended. Currently, the president is limited to two terms, but the "First amendment Bill" would allow Nujoma to run for a third term. Nujoma's SWAPO has a majority in the National Assembly, and the bill could soon be presented for his signature. (ANS). The Bukalo Tribal Authority met to discuss the crisis in Caprivi. A clandestine rebel movement, reportedly led by Chief Boniface of the Mafwe and Mishake Myongo of the DTA, have been threatening security in Caprivi. The secessionist movement reportedly has its support based in the Mafwe tribe who are concentrated in the Linyanti area.. Chief Liswani III of the Subia (Subiya) tribe said other chiefs has not been consulted about the movement. (ANS). Caprivian secession has been an issue in Namibia since the 1960s when SWAPO reportedly signed an agreement with CANU providing for its independence after the war of liberation ended. Mishake Myongo and other Caprivi leaders began agitating for the fulfillment of this agreement in recent months, thought the SWAPO government of Sam Nujoma denied than such an agreement had ever taken place. The secession question was hotly disputed in the mid-1980s, but died down until Myongo recently reawakened it. (ANS, 8/6/1999)
Nov 17, 1998 The leader of Zambia's Lozi separatist movement, Akashambatwa Lewanika, announced his support for the secessionists in the Caprivi strip of Namibia.. The Mafwe of Namibia are related to the Lozi in Zambia. (New York Times)
Jan 7, 1999 DTA leader Muyongo was arrested after crossing into Botswana with about 100 other people. As many as 2000 have crossed illegally into Botswana in recent months. The Namibians claimed they were being persecuted by police and needed political asylum, and the UN said most of the refugees had no connection with the alleged secessionist movement. (ANS)
Feb 1999 The Namibian government expressed its profound displeasure at Botswana's decision to grant asylum to Mishake Muyongo and 14 others. Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Gurirab said Botswana ignored Namibia's request to have the separatists deported so they could face trial in Namibia. Botswana wants the UN to find accommodations outside the country for the 15 Namibians. (ANS, 2/15/1999). Caprivi Governor Bernard Sibalatani said the region was calm following the departure of the leaders of the secessionist movement. (ANS, 2/16/1999) However, there were recent police deployments at all public buildings following a rally by the Mafwe tribe (ANS, 2/23/1999). A controversial decision to transfer 18 Sifwe-speaking police from Caprivi to other parts of the country has drawn opposition condemnation. The case of the 18 police officers has become a rallying point for the Mafwe tribe who claim they are persecuted and marginalized by the government. The DTA youth wing said the transfer was a form of harassment. (ANS, 2/25/1999). UDP politician Geoffrey Mwilima withdrew from parliament. He was the most prominent UDP member who had not fled to Botswana in the wake of secessionist unrest in Caprivi. He said he withdrew from the government in protest at the treatment of his people, particularly the recent legislation promoting commoners under Chief Boniface Mamili of the Mafwe to chiefly status. (ANS, 2/25/1999)
Mar 1999 The Congress of Democrats was established by Ben Ulenga, a former SWAPO leader, Robben Island prisoner, and trade unionist. He split from SWAPO after its MPs voted to amend the constitution to allow the president to stand for a third term. (ANS, 3/27/1999)
Apr 1999 The new Congress of Democrats party, launched in March, stated that government security agents have been secretly surveying its activities as it mobilizes its support based around the country. (ANS, 4/23/1999). SWAPO MP Ellen Musialele joined forces with a few Mafwe who want to install Goerge Simasiku Mamili as the new Mafwe tribal leader following Chief Boniface Mamili's flight to Botswana last year. UDP politician Goeffrey Mwilima who withdrew from parliament over the government's treatment of the Mafwe in February came out against the replacement of the chief and accused Musialela of interference. Most leaders of the Mafwe are against the enthronement. (ANS, 4/16/1999)
May 1999 DTA MP Samuel Cloete criticized the government for its inaction on nullifying pre-independence legislation which excluded Caprivi from the laws the rest of the country followed. He also wanted to know whether rumors of a secret agreement between CANU and SWAPO in the 1960s promising autonomy or independence to Caprivi after independence were true.(ANS, 5/27/1999). Namibia, Botswana, and the UN signed a tripartite agreement for the voluntary return of refugees from Botswana. (ANS, 6/20/1999)
Jun 1999 SWAPO has voted to increase the number of candidates on the party's list who will be chosen by Nujoma for the next elections. Nujoma in 1994 chose 32 members, but this was later reduced to 10. The SWAPO members pushing for an increase to 20 are mainly those without a strong constituency base and who are closely tied to the president. SWAPO members fear the formation of the Congress of Democrats might cut into SWAPO's share of parliamentary seats. (ANS, 6/7/1999). Four Caprivi secessionist leaders who fled to Botswana were stripped of their asylum status after they left their refugee camp. The main leaders of the secessionist movement, Mishake Muyongo and Chief Boniface Mamili left Botswana in May for Denmark. The UNHCR is looking for other countries to sent the movement's leaders to, and hope to voluntarily repatriate those Namibians who fled out of fear rather than because they were involved in the plans for secession. (ANS, 6/17/1999)
Jul 8, 1999 A senior UNHCR official said more than 600 Namibian refugees in Botswana are due to be transported home to Caprivi next week following assurances of their safety. That would leave some 1,300 Namibian refugees left in Botswana out of the 2,500 that fled Caprivi last year claiming persecution by the government. (IRIN)
Aug 1999 Angola's UNITA rebel movement was reportedly backing the secessionists of Namibia's Caprivi Strip. On August 2nd, guerrillas of the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) launched attacks on a military base at Mpacha airport, and the police station and radio center in Katima Mulilo, the regional capital. Five officers and three soldiers were killed and dozens injured, while five separatists were killed and eight captured. Namibian President Sam Nujoma has been one of the staunchest backers of Angola's MPLA government. The Caprivi Strip is a vital supply route for food and other commodities for UNITA. President Nujoma declared a state of emergency in Caprivi on August 3rd. People have been ordered to stay indoors at night as government forces patrolled the streets. According to the Barotse Patriotic Front, Lozis in Zambia reportedly have begun crossing into the Caprivi Strip to help their kin fight the Namibian government. (ANS, 8/4/99 and 8/6/1999)
Aug 4, 1999 Security forces arrested former parliamentarian Geoffrey Mwilima after he called on the government to initiate a debate on secession in Caprivi. Mwilima said the issue of Caprivi or "Republic of Itenge" secession had been raised before, but had become more pronounced recently because "many Caprivians feel ill-treated" He alleged that no development was taking place in Caprivi and that the government was not listening to traditional leaders. (ANS, 8/5/99)
Aug 9, 1999 In an interview from Denmark, secessionist leader Muyongo stated that "nobody can tell how long the struggle will continue. As long as the issue of the Caprivi is not resolved, as long as the people of the Caprivi continue to be marginalized, discriminated against, shot at whenever they ask questions, their traditions being destroyed. I think that the struggle can continue as long as the people of the Caprivi are there." He reiterated that his goal is independence for Caprivi. (BBC). Prison authorities have cleared the Grootfontein prison to make room for a large number of suspects rounded up under emergency legislation in Caprivi. It is not clear how many people have been arrested, but one source suggested 300 people had been arrested. (ANS)
Aug 11, 1999 Medical personnel have confirmed that there has been widespread human rights violations in Katima Mulilo by security forces. At least two medical personnel and another witness said that women and children were being beaten and shot. The medical personnel reported treating "a lot" of gunshot wounds. Security forces do not speak the local language, and when people are confronted for information by the forces, they are often beaten or shot when they do not provide the information sought. There were also reports of prisoners being starved to extract confessions (ANS).
Aug 15, 1999 Zambian based Barotse Patriotic Front leader Imasiku Mutangelwa was arrested for backing the armed uprising in Namibia by residents of East Caprivi. He had been holed up in the South African embassy seeking political asylum. He had called on Lozis world-wide to aid the cause of the Caprivi secessionists. The Barotse Patriotic Front has in recent years worked for the independence of the former "Barotseland" which was a protectorate under British colonial rule before it became part of Zambia in 1964 (Xinhua).
Aug 16, 1999 The National Society for Human Rights said it believed up to 500 people had been arrested in Caprivi as part of the government crackdown on secessionists. The claim was not independently confirmed (ANS)
Aug 23, 1999 The Congress of Democrats, formed in May of this year by former SWAPO supporters, said the government was employing a smear campaign against it. The government reportedly linked their leader, Ben Ulenga, to the Caprivi secessionists. Ulenga said the party did not support secession. (ANS)
Sep 1, 1999 The Ministry of Defence reported that soldiers killed three secessionist rebels in Sibbindu, 60 km west of Katima Mulilo. At least 17 people, rebels, soldiers and 1 civilian, have been killed since the August 2nd attack. The government has so far charged 85 people with treason. (ANS)
Sep 25, 1999 More than 1000 Namibians remained in Botswana's Dukwe refugee camp. The UNHCR suspended repatriation after the August violence in Caprivi. (ANS)
Sep 27, 1999 The Inspector General of Police Lucas Hangula dispatched a detective to investigate allegations of torture of more than 50 secessionist suspects in Caprivi. Protestors demonstrated against the granting of bail of the secessionist suspects throughout the month of September. (ANS)
Dec 6, 1999 In elections that began 11/30, President Nujoma was reelected to a third term with 77% of the vote. Voter turnout was high due to the country's economic troubles. SWAPO gained 55 seats in parliament while the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance and the Congress of Democrats each gained 10. Other parties won three additional seats. The DTA was replaced by the CoD as the official opposition (DPA, 12/1/99 and 12/6/99)
Jan 21, 2000 More than 100 secessionist suspects were expected to have their cases postponed for at least a year for further investigation. Public Prosecutor Job Kozonguizi said some 120 people were being held for high treason. Geoffrey Mwilima, a former parliamentarian, was one suspect allegedly tortured while in custody. He sustained a broken jaw and multiple cuts from security forces' assaults. (ANS)

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