September 11, 2006

Caprivi political party declared illegal

The government has all but banned a political party wanting self-rule for the Caprivi Strip in northeastern Namibia, drawing strong criticism from human rights organisations on the grounds that this is "unconstitutional". "No UDP [United Democratic Party] meetings will be allowed in the Republic of Namibia from 1 September. Those individuals who are publicly advocating the secession of the Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia, in furtherance of UDP objectives, will be dealt with according to our laws," Deputy Information Minister Raphael Dinyando announced. "The secessionist activities of the UDP render it an illegal organisation."
The UDP was founded in 1985 by Muyongo and evolved from the Caprivi African National Union (CANU), which Muyongo co-founded. In the 1960s CANU merged with Sam Nujoma's South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO), which has been the ruling party in Namibia since independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990. The Caprivi Strip, about 20km wide and 400km long, was established in 1890 after Germany exchanged it for the islands of Helgoland, off the coast of Germany in the North Sea, and Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania, with the British to give the German colony of South West Africa access to the Zambezi River.
The largest ethnic groups in the Caprivi - the Mafwe, Mayeyi, Mayuni and Masubia - have strong connections with ethnic groups in neighbouring Zambia and Botswana, but not in Namibia. Until the end of the 1800s the area was known as Itenge or Linyanti, and ruled by the Lozi Empire as part of the Barotseland Kingdom. The empire included parts of present-day Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. On the eve of Zambia's independence in 1964, then Prime Minister Kenneth Kaunda and the King of Barotseland, Sir Mwanawina Lewanika, signed an agreement incorporating the autonomous Barotseland Kingdom into Zambia without the Caprivi Strip. The demand for self-rule in Caprivi turned violent in 1999, after a group claiming to be the UDP's military wing tried to seize the regional broadcasting station, police offices and an airstrip at Katima Mulilo, capital of the Caprivi Strip. Namibian security forces quashed the attempt and about 130 people were arrested, of which 120 were put on trial in 2004 for treason. The case is continuing.
According to a poverty profile assessment by Namibia's National Planning Commission, with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme, "Caprivi is the poorest region in the country. (IRIN)


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