nujoma: egypt played a vital role in namibia’s independence

Cairo - Egypt | Saturday, November 14, 2020:

If you have been to Africa but not to Namibia, you have not seen the beauty of Africa yet. It is a young country, producer of the best diamonds in the world; however, many of those diamonds are tainted with the blood of its people. 

South West Africa, or Namibia, is a young country because it obtained its independence in 1990. Its territory surpasses both France and Britain in size and is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the desert of Kalahari, practically at the southern-western part of Africa. 

On his way to the new land in America, Columbus marked with a cross what he called the “Coast of Hell”, Namibia. The spectacular landscape nonetheless compelled the Portuguese to this part of the world and would welcome them until the demise of their empire. Yet once more, the fascinating connection between ocean and desert, in addition to the unlimited mineral resources, brought this time the German settlers who instigated feelings of independence among the natives.

Namibia had to go through the fall of two empires and two world wars before getting its independence. The German defeat in world war 2 brought nothing to the Namibians but the apartheid rule of South Africa. Even after the fall of the British empire, the harsh apartheid regime in South Africa tightened its grip over this country, bringing Namibians to a de facto slavery status in their land.

For almost thirty years, Nujoma went into exile, where he organized SWAPO, a military guerilla war against the apartheid regime. He also lobbied for his country’s independence and pleaded for the United Nations to end apartheid. Nujoma, who committed his life for his country’s cause, finally managed in 1990 to get the international support that forced the UN to issue a decree on the pull out of the South African apartheid regime from Namibia. 

This icon and founding father of Namibia was on a short trip to Cairo to be honored by the Foundation of “Kemet Boutros Ghali”. He was awarded a medal for his efforts in diplomacy and conflict resolution. During his visit, President Nujoma was greeted by President Abdel Fattah El- Sisi, and he discussed several issues concerning the continent. 

 “As you may recall, the friendship and strong bonds of solidarity between the Republic of Namibia and Egypt are historical and dates back to the years of our protracted armed liberation struggle. During those testing times of our liberation struggle, SWAPO joined hands with other progressive forces at multilateral fora. These included but were not limited to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Anti-Apartheid Movement, as well as the United Nations (UN) through the United Nations Council for Namibia, which supported the noble cause of the struggle for the liberation of Namibia.”

Nujoma is not only the founding father of Namibia; he is also a close comrade of our African independence leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, and Gamal Abdel Nasser. 

“North African leaders like Nasser politically inspired those of us in the colonized and occupied parts of Africa,” he said. 

However, the road to liberation was very, very long. At the time, Nujoma recalls that he attended the “Third All-African People’s Conference” in March 1961 in Cairo, Egypt, where he met many other Pan-Africanists, including the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was a dedicated supporter of African liberation movements.

“He assured us of his support to SWAPO and offered me air tickets for military training of our combatants. As a result, in July 1962, SWAPO sent seven men to Egypt for military training in guerrilla warfare tactics, including parachuting and marine training.”

Those were among the first combatants of SWAPO’s Military Wing. Some of them were even the leaders who lit the road to Namibia’s armed liberation struggle on 26 August 1966 at Omugulugwombashe in Northern Namibia, Nujoma said. Despite his 90 years of age, the Namibian president still remembers Egypt’s pivotal role in supporting the Namibian struggle in minute detail. “This country hosted the first SWAPO Office in Ahmed Hishmat street in Zamalek, Cairo. It was the home of Africa’s liberation movements, hosting and training African freedom fighters and supplied us with arms and ammunition.” 

In 1964 the ‘OAU’ set up the African Liberation Committee, later renamed the Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, with headquarters in Dar-es-Sthisalaam. Egypt was among the nine OAU member states who formed part of the Liberation Committee. This Committee, as H.E Nujoma recalls, was under the chairmanship of Egypt. The Committee recognized SWAPO as the Sole and Authentic Representative of the Namibian people, which the United Nations General Assembly also endorsed.

The former president of Namibia accordingly declared: “I shall be failing in my duty if I do not thank the gallant people of Egypt for the unflinching political, material, diplomatic and moral support they gave to our liberation movement, SWAPO, until the attainment of our freedom and genuine independence on 21 March 1990.” He added that SWAPO was promoting unity of purpose among all Namibians. “After independence, we introduced a policy of national reconciliation, which brought former enemies together under one umbrella. We did this because we were aware of the fact that only peace could assure sustainable development and nation-building for our country.”

Nujoma, who was elected twice as president, stepped down from the presidency and decided to launch a new war, this time against the abuse of human rights. He is now the Director of the National Society for Human Rights. In his eyes, this award he is receiving is a dedication to the Namibian people, whom he was proud to represent. In this spirit, he stated that he “was honored to be part of their leadership during the bitter and protracted liberation struggle against foreign rule of our country and for whom we laid a foundation to share the future destiny of a free and independent Namibia.”

Nujoma feels proud to be associated with the name of Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, who was “The first African to serve as UN Secretary-General in 1992, a period of great global challenges that faced the United Nations Organization.” He recalls his significant achievement as UN Secretary-General or his “Agenda for Peace,” which initiated a plan for the UN to examine the socio-economic dimensions of development in a more integrated way, especially in the aftermath of conflicts.

The theme of the award, as Nujoma explained, namely the “Outstanding Achievements” in the field of Diplomacy for Peaceful Conflict Resolutions and Strengthening of Cooperation, “is central, especially for us in Africa. It resonates with the will of the African Union (AU) to silence the guns on the African continent, as perceived in Agenda 2063, on the Africa we want. It is also in conformity with United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, as contained in United Nations Agenda 2030.”

Regarding finding peaceful solutions to various situations in Africa, Nujoma expressed his appreciation for the positive and constructive approach displayed by Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in finding a peaceful, negotiated settlement for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). He believes that those involved in this issue should emphasize the importance of a win-win situation, “We should emphasize the spirit of solidarity and cooperation and express our confidence in the process led by the African Union and strongly support the mediation.” 

Nujoma has thus urged all member-states of the African Union to collaborate and find African solutions for African problems.