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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for East Caprivians in Namibia

View Group Chronology

Namibia Facts
Area:    825,418 sq. km.
Capital:    Windhoek
Total Population:    1,600,000 (source: unknown, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Caprivians have several of the factors that increase the likelihood of future rebellion: territorial concentration; recent government repression; and lack of support by the government or transnational groups for reform. However, there are other factors that favor the containment of rebellion: Namibia is a stable democracy; the group is not very well organized or mobilized; and past protest and rebellion has been fairly limited. Although the group does not encounter significant political or cultural restrictions often associated with protest, repression against the group might contribute to future group protest.


Analytic Summary

The East Caprivians are concentrated on the Caprivi Strip, a narrow piece of land that juts out of Namibia into Zambia and is bordered by Angola on the north and Botswana on the south (GROUPCON = 3). The East Caprivians are comprised of three ethnic groups: Mafwe, Subiya and Mayeye, all of which are sub-groups of the Lozi (Barotse) who are located mainly in Zambia. The Caprivians speak multiple languages and have social customs distinct from that of other groups in Namibia (LANG = 1; CUSTOM = 1).

In 1998, a secessionist movement developed amongst the group, led by Mishake Muyongo and Chief Boniface Mamili. The impetus for secession was a promise supposedly made by Sam Nujoma, the leader of SWAPO, to Muyongo during the years of their alliance from 1964 to 1980. Years after the alliance was over, Muyongo claimed that Nujoma had promised independence for Caprivi when Namibia gained independence from South Africa. When Namibia gained independence in 1990, this did not come to fruition, and Nujoma has denied ever making such a promise.

The group faces significant economic discrimination and disadvantages (ECDIS04-06 = 2), although it exhibits no pattern of political discrimination (POLDIS04-06 = 0). The Namibian government has not implemented remedial policies in favor of East Caprivians. The group also faces demographic and ecological disadvantages, including poor public health conditions and migration. In 2004, East Caprivians faced serious floods, leading thousands to be displaced (DISPLACE04 = 3). Spillover of the UNITA conflict in Angola had caused environmental decline and loss of jobs. However, in 2002, UNITA gave up armed struggle. There is a fairly heavy military presence in the area. Between 2004 and 2006, there were reports of moderate levels of repressive activity. Mafwe citizens complained of harassment in the form of repeated police interrogations, combined with harassment complaints by the Caprivi Liberation Army suspects on trial for treason and witnesses involved in the trial (REPGENCIV04= -99; REPGENCIV06 = 2). As a result of harassment by both Namibian and Angolan forces, group members have been dispossessed from their land. The group faces high rates of HIV/AIDS; it is unclear if the rates of infection are higher than for the rest of the country, but some estimate that it could be as high as 40 percent.

Some Caprivians have demanded independence from Namibia; however, it is unclear how many group members actually support this (POLGR04-06 = 4; SEPX04-06 = 3) as a recent protest with hundreds of participants denounced separatists and secession in the Caprivi Strip. Most Caprivians seem to be more concerned with greater economic opportunities (ECGR06 = 2), greater political rights within their community and equal civil rights. Protection of group culture and customs has been an issue in the past, but no grievances have been voiced in this area in recent years.

Grievances are mainly expressed through conventional political channels with the exception of the secessionist Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) (GOJPA03-06 = 3). Conventional parties that represent the group include the United Democratic Party, which was banned in September 2006 for its secessionist objectives, and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA). The DTA is a prominent opposition party comprised of many neglected ethnic groups including Caprivians. The Caprivi National Democratic Party formed in 2004 and attempted to register, but was denied because according to authorities the use of “Caprivi” ran contrary to Namibia as a unitary state. Eventually, the organization was allowed to register and run candidates once it dropped “Caprivi” from its name and became the National Democratic Party. It is not clear how many Caprivians support any of these groups, especially the CLA.

There is no conflict between Caprivians and other ethnic groups in Namibia; however, there is a high level of animus between the Caprivians and the Namibian government. The CLA appeared on the scene in 1998 and began engaging in violence in 1999 (REB99 = 3; REB02 = 2). When it did, the military targeted suspected rebel camps for destruction, massacred suspected rebels and engaged in high levels of repressive activity. The leaders of the CLA fled to Botswana and then to Denmark. Since then, repression seems to have declined but there is still a heavy military presence in the area and reports of arrests, torture, and execution (REPGENCIV04 = -99; REPGENCIV06 = 2; REPNVIOL06 = 2). The treason trial for CLA activists, which began in September of 2005 and was ongoing in 2007, also contributed to the animosity between Caprivians and the government. No incidents of rebellion have been reported in recent years (REB03-06 = 0).



Federation of American Scientists. 1999. "Caprivi Liberation Front.", accessed 1/12/2009.

LexisNexis. Various reports. 1990-2006.

Leys, Colin and John S. Saul. 1995. Namibia's Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Minority Rights Group. 2005. World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples: Namibia Overview., accessed 1/12/2009.

Tvedten, Inge. 2002."'If you Don't Fish, You are Not a Caprivian': Freshwater Fisheries in Caprivi, Namibia." Journal of Southern African Studies. 28:2. 421-439.

United States Department of State. 2004-2007. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Namibia., accessed 1/12/2009.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006