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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK

World: Africa

Analysis: Uprising in the Caprivi

BBC Africa reporter Caroline Hawley looks at the background to the secessionist rebellion in the remote Namibian province.

The Caprivi Strip is a legacy of colonialism, a long finger of territory that pokes eastwads out of northern Namibia, and runs along the borders with Angola and Botswana towards Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It is the result of a territorial swap agreed between Britain and Germany in 1890. Britain acquired Zanzibar in east Africa, while Germany got the slice of land that later became known as the Caprivi Strip - giving it access to the Zambezi river, along the border of what is now Zambia.

[ image: South Africa used Caprivi as a base to attack Swapo positions in Angola]
South Africa used Caprivi as a base to attack Swapo positions in Angola
The Caprivi Strip differs from the rest of Namibia geographically, politically and in its ethnic make-up. During the apartheid era, the territory was used by the South African army as a launch-pad for its operations in neighbouring Angola, and against guerrillas of the Namibian independence movement, Swapo.

Since independence in 1990, senior members of Swapo have questioned the loyalty of the Caprivians, who have largely allied themselves with the main Namibian opposition party, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance.

Accusations of neglect

The Caprivians, for their part, accuse the government of neglecting the area - which was described by a recent United Nations report as Namibia's poorest region.

[ image: On independence, Swapo had the backing of most but not all Namibians]
On independence, Swapo had the backing of most but not all Namibians
But it was not until late last year that a secessionist movement emerged in Caprivi - the Caprivi Liberation Army - led by a man called Mishake Muyongo.

The Namibian security forces acted swiftly, arresting many suspected supporters of the new movement. More than 2,000 Caprivians fled into Botswana, including Mr Muyongo.

Many of them had returned over the past few months. But beneath the apparent calm in Caprivi, the separatists had clearly been busy.

Their attacks on several targets in Katama Mulilo took many Namibians by surpise.

Though relatively small in number, the Caprivi secessionists have shown they are a force to be reckoned with - armed and trained, according to the government, by Unita rebels across the border in Angola.

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