The majority of the 100,000 population of Caprivi are Lozi-speaking and share a common history and culture with Lozis across the border in Zambia. Most of the Lozi - an ethnic group of 556-thousand people -- live in western Zambia, while some 70-thousand live in northwest Zimbabwe, 14-thousand in northern Botswana and 17-thousand in the Caprivi. These areas made up their ancestral Kingdom known as Barotseland.The Lozi in eastern Caprivi do not identify with the rest of the Namibian population and in 1994 formed the Caprivi Liberation Front, which began campaigning for a measure of autonomy to pursue closer ties with the Lozi in western Zambia. Leaders of the Caprivi nationalist movement have met with Zambia’s separatist Barotse Patriotic Front. The Caprivi movement had found support among the Lozi people in Zambia because their situation in Ovambo-dominated Namibia is considered similar to their own. An estimated 2,500 Namibians from the Caprivi Strip, allegedly fleeing secessionist tensions, have sought refuge in Botswana. Many of the refugees returned to Namibia this year, but the Front's officials -- including its leader Mishake Muyonga -- have remained in exile.
In 1998 the Namibian Government said it had located a military training camp run by the Caprivi Liberation Front, and with the discovery 15 Front officials fled to Botswana. In August 1999 the Namibian Government imposed a state of emergency in the eastern part of the Caprivi Strip. That government action came after at least fifteen people were killed in an attack by members of the Caprivi Liberation Front on a military base, police station and other installations in the small town of Katima Mulilo. It is estimated that between 300 and 600 people have been detained on suspicion of ties with the separatist Caprivi Liberation Army.