NGO seeks to repatriate San refugees from Botswana

(Pana, 22/11, Gaborone)


A Namibian-based NGO is currently locked up in negotiations with Botswana for the repatriation of 200 refugees of San (Basarwa or Bushmen) origin, press reports said on Tuesday.

According to the privately owned Botswana Gazette newspaper, the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) has asserted that a majority of the refugees at the Dukwi camp are being harrased and are suffering from TB.

WIMSA's regional director, Axel Thoma, reportedly told the newspaper from Windhoek: "Lots of rumours abound and I understand a lot of people are suffering from tuberculosis. However, I cannot comment further on this issue as I have never been to Dukwi Refugee Camp." He added that there are two groups of Basarwa in Dukwi.

The first group consists of those who want to be repatriated to Namibia while the second group want to remain behind. Thoma told the Gazette that the Basarwa refugees sent a message to WIMSA that they want to be return to Namibia.

"The problem is that those who want to be repatriated are being harassed and intimidated. Authorities in Botswana, we are told, tried to separate them but they seem to have failed. I am in the dark as to who should be responsible for these kind of activities," he said.

The paper reported that WIMSA has requested the help of the Botswana council of churches to facilitate a meeting between NGOs in Shakawe Botswana and Caprivi in Namibia to speak to Basarwa people in Dukwi.

WIMSA intends to repatriate the Basarwa to Namibia before the end of the year. Recently, WIMSA with the help of both the Namibian and Botswana governments, repatriated the sick Kxoe (Basarwa) chief who came to Botswana during the Caprivi Strip disturbances two years ago.

The chief, who is still in hospital, wanted to be buried among his people in case of death. Not too long ago the Basarwa from various groups in southern Africa met under WIMSA in Gaborone and voiced their concern about the plight of the kith and kin in Dukwi.

They claimed their people are being harassed in Dukwi and the troubled Caprivi Strip. They also said that in Caprivi they are in danger of mines planted by Angola's Unita rebels.

info Axel Thoma, Wimsa, PO Box 80733, Windhoek, Namibia,t100264/61/