Last week, the Namibian High Commissioner to Botswana, Hidino Hishongwa, praised the City of Francistown for its contribution in assisting the Namibians during the times of the liberation struggle of that country. Speaking during a tripartite meeting between the Botswana government, UNHCR (United Nations High Commission of Refugees) and the Namibian government on the extradition of Namibian refugees, Hishongwa praised Francistown, indicating that he was once a refugee who stayed in Francistown in a place called the White House in the early 60s.
“Most of the leaders of colonial southern Africa have at some time been in Francistown during the struggle against the colonial masters,” he said.
He stated that Botswana has always maintained a cordial relationship with Namibia, dating back to the colonial era.
Hishongwa said that he was a refugee for 27 years and was taught that as a refugee it is very vital that you respect the laws of the host country. He assured the Botswana government that now that there is stability in Namibia, the government has opened doors for the Namibian refugees in Botswana to go back.
“Some of them are skilled and have been integrated within the community to contribute to the economy of Namibia as we speak,” he said.
He also praised Francistown indicating that it is where most leaders met and networked to discuss important issues on how to solve the problems in their countries during the liberation struggle.
Hishongwa went on to applaud Botswana as a country, saying that Batswana have been supportive of Namibians and have always been hospitable to the Namibians during hard times.
However, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe, also told the participants that although Botswana has always been tasked with a challenge of some refugees breaking the laws of the country, Botswana will continue to be supportive to those who qualify for refugee status. He added that the reason for the meeting to be held in Francistown is because Francistown has long been a second home to the Namibian refugees during the days of the struggle.
“Francistown is also a good place to conduct such a meeting because of its proximity to the Dukwi refugee camp where the refugees are based,” Makgonatsotlhe said, adding that Botswana has managed to host more than 2 000 Namibian refugees.
The UNHCR Chief of Mission in Botswana, Shana Kaninda, told the participants that such a meeting is very vital because it helps both countries to reflect on what they have achieved in order to help the refugees and discuss how to combat challenges if there are any.
“I need to acknowledge that the Botswana government has been very supportive to the Namibian refugees and as UNHCR we have also been mandated to assist the government in helping those refugees who want to return back to their countries of birth.”
The tripartite meeting of the two countries and the UNHCR in Francistown was geared at discussing how to facilitate the repatriation of refugees who are willing to go back to Namibia.
Makgonatsotllhe told The Sunday Standard that so far, more than 2000 refugees have been repatriated back to Namibia, adding that there are currently 941 Namibian refugees at Dukwi refugee Camp.