Botswana’s only refugee camp at Dukwi is bracing itself for another influx of refugees fleeing election violence in Zimbabwe.
Recent reports say refugees are already arriving in Botswana as political violence escalates these days leading to the election run-off scheduled for June 27 approaches.
Although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees denies receiving such reports, it’s been alleged that over 300 refugees poured into Botswana before, during and after the March elections.
The centre received asylum seekers and migrants at different entry posts such as Bobonong, Masunga, Maitengwe and Victoria Falls.
On arrival, they are first taken to the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants where the Refugee Advisory Committee interviews and vets them.
After vetting, they are then moved to Dukwi where they are provided with food, clothes, blankets and shelter in the form of tents.
Due to overwhelming numbers, the process takes long and there have been some insinuations that the government is losing control of the situation.
Marshall Samuels, the Protection Officer at the UNHCR in Gaborone, said the influx began six weeks ago, and most of those received were from Zimbabwe.
”The centre was threatened with overcrowding about six weeks ago around the time Zimbabwe held its presidential and parliamentary elections.”
There is enough evidence to lead authorities to conclude that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe. As it is, most refugees are reported to have revealed that they are members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and feared for their lives and their families.
The refugees show signs of torture, like battered faces and deeply cracked heels.
The UNHCR regards the immigrants’ plight as genuine
Information reaching the SUNDAY STANDARD indicates that some of the refugees arrived as whole families, minors, and suckling mothers claiming to have lost their husbands to ruling party militia.
It is reported that the youngest child who arrived at the camp with its mother is hardly 8 months old.
The UNHCR welcomes any form of assistance that can be donated for the refugees.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation summoned Zimbabwean Ambassador to Botswana, HE Thomas Mandigora, to express “strong concern over the latest arrests and detentions of opposition leaders” Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, and his party’s Secretary General, Tendai Biti.
“Botswana is alarmed by the arrests and detentions as they disrupt electoral activities of key players and intimidate the electorate thus undermining the process of holding a free, fair and democratic election,” the Ministry told The Sunday Standard in a signed statement. “We are deeply disturbed by this unfolding situation of politically motivated arrests and intolerance which poses a serious threat to an outcome that reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe.”
The Botswana government went on to say that the repeated arrests and detentions are unacceptable and deserve condemnation as they violate the Principles and Objectives of the SADC Treaty.
“The government of the Republic of Zimbabwe has the primary responsibility to ensure that a climate of peace and security prevails…We, therefore, call upon the government of Zimbabwe to fully assume its responsibilities by putting and end to these acts of political harassment and intimidation to avoid a further deterioration of the situation in that country.”
Tsvangirai was arrested twice on Thursday, while Biti was arrested at the airport on arrival from South Africa and was immediately charged with treason for allegedly announcing the results of the March presidential election before the official body did.
Botswana has become quite vocal in condemning the election violence in Zimbabwe. This is the second time in as many weeks that it has issued statements condemning what is happening in Zimbabwe and the summoning of the Zimbabwean ambassador is seen as an indication of worsening displeasure with the government of Zimbabwe.