Some of the nearly 700 Zimbabweans residing at the Dukwi Refugee Camp in Botswana have started going back home ahead of the December 31 deadline, the media reported.
Botswana’s Southern Times newspaper said the move follows negotiations between the two countries earlier this year, with indications that it was now safe for the Zimbabweans to return home.
The majority of the refugees fled Zimbabwe at the height of the violent presidential election in 2008, the publication said.
Power changed hands in Zimbabwe last November following a dramatic fallout between President Robert Mugabe and his then deputy Emerson Mnangagwa, his successor.
Its own coffers
Botswana, the Southern Times reported, said it would be difficult to sustain the refugees, some from Namibia, after the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cut aid to the host countries.
The UNHCR move means Botswana has to dig into its own coffers to cater for the emigrants.
While the Zimbabwean refugees were given a December 31 deadline, their Namibian counterparts have been told to leave before July 13.
However, the Namibia refugees have vowed to stay put, refusing to return home.
In May, over 900 Namibian refugees living in Botswana were given two months to return home, local media confirmed.
A civil war
The Namibian have been residing at the Dukwi camp in central Botswana, for almost two decades.
They fled to Botswana in 1999 following a civil war which rocked the north-eastern part of their country, commonly known as the Caprivi Strip, between the Caprivi Liberation Army and the government.
Shortly after the unsuccessful secession attempt, about 3,000 people sought refuge in Botswana for fear of reprisals from the Namibian government.
Botswana is one of the Africa’s most stable countries. It is also known as the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy.
The southern African Nation is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.