Nicolas Bwakira, UNHCR's Regional Director for Southern Africa, told IRIN on Monday after a visit to Namibia that he had reached an agreement with the government whereby the agency will increase its staff in Namibia. It would also seek to verify accounts by human rights activists and the media of refugees being turned back or handed over to Angolan government forces.
In the latest incident along the Namibia-Angola border, 'The Namibian' reported that two Namibian civilians were shot and killed by suspected UNITA rebels in the early hours of Sunday morning at a village called Nkonke some 100 km west of the Kavango regional capital, Rundu.
Bwakira also said UNHCR would establish a new register of refugees to keep track of an influx which has risen to an estimated 7,500 - 9,000 since Angolan forces were granted permission a month ago to use Namibian territory for attacks against the last rebel strongholds in southern Angola.
He said UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies would work together on a joint programme to protect refugees, help them trace their families, as well as feed and shelter them.
"It is most important too that they have agreed to let us establish a training programme on how to deal with refugee influxes for the military and the law and order forces in the border zone," Bwakire said. "We are satisfied that the government is now taking this matter in hand."
He said he was concerned at reports that some refugee males of military age were being turned over to Angolan government forces. He said UNHCR was also attempting to verify a report that a girl of about five had been shot and killed on Monday when police allegedly opened fire on a score of refugees who crossed the Kavango River just west of Rundu. "We obviously do not have the facts to hand, but if true, this is the sort of incident which has to be prevented."
'The Namibian' quoted a government statement as saying UNITA rebels had launched retaliatory raids in Namibia because of the rebels' "dire need for survival" rather than because of the Namibian Defence Force's assistance to the Angolan government army. The statement, six days after a fatal attack on French tourists in the west of Caprivi Strip, said that "UNITA's logistics system has been severely disrupted and elements of UNITA have found themselves in dire need of survival.
The statement by Information and Broadcasting Permanent Secretary Mocks Shivute, emphasised that "Namibia has no troops in Angola."
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