Namibia still has work to do, says Pohamba
Addressing a triumphant crowd of close to 20, 000 people that thronged the Independence Stadium in Windhoek on Tuesday during the independence celebrations Namibia’s second president Pohamba said although his government still had a number of challenges to overcome on behalf of the Namibian people, the country had made tremendous achievements in fostering peace and unity. “I am aware that there are many challenges that we face in the process of nation building’Government will continue to do what is right in order to fulfil our mandate,” said Pohamba amidst ululations from the crowd that braved the brazing sun for hours on end. He said over the sixteen years of independence Namibia had become a symbol of peace and stability in the region and beyond its borders. He challenged every Namibian to uphold peace and stability through tolerance and mutual understanding. Pohomba said some of the challenges his government was facing include combating HIV, unemployment, access to adequate health, economic development and corruption. He said his government was giving priority to youth empowerment and making small-scale farmers self-reliant. Over the freedom struggles that Namibia went through before finally getting independence in 1990 Pohamba paid tribute to his predecessor and founding father of the nation Sam Nujoma and other freedom fighters including the fallen heroes. Namibia passed through the colonial hands of Germany and South Africa’s apartheid regime. In 1966 a United Nations resolution terminated South Africa’s mandate over the former German colony then South West Africa. The white-minority government of South Africa, however, refused to give up its administration and domination of the territory. Black nationalist Africans promptly established a guerrilla liberation front, the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), and began to fight the whites. SWAPO was weak and ineffective at first, however, when the Portuguese were driven out of neighboring Angola, the guerrillas were offered aid and bases there, as well as training by Cuban soldiers. Then the guerrilla war for independence escalated sharply and in response South African government troops began raiding guerrilla bases in Angola, while SWAPO forces hit back in Namibia. In 1976, the UN condemned South Africa for “illegal occupation” of the territory, and the following year the UN General Assembly recognised SWAPO as the sole legitimate representative of Namibia. In 1978, the UN called an international conference to resolve the conflict and then South Africa’s Prime Minister John Vorster agreed to have free elections to be supervised by the UN to determine the fate of Namibia. It was not long before then reneged. In 1979, Vorster, then president, again rejected a UN proposal to settle the dispute. Two years later a peace conference in Geneva also failed to win concessions from the South African government; control of Walvis Bay, Namibia’s only deep-water port, was a major point of contention. The United States supported South Africa’s refusal to withdraw from Namibia unless Cuban troops pulled out of Angola and a commission was set up to monitor a cease-fire agreement in 1984. A new, multiracial government was installed in Namibia by South Africa in 1985, but SWAPO’s armed struggle continued because of lack of progress toward implementing of the UN Resolution 435 on independence for Namibia and the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. In December 1988, a US-mediated peace agreement led to the signing of UN Resolution 435 by South Africa, Cuba, and Angola, setting a timetable for Namibian independence. At this same time Cuba and Angola agreed to a phased withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. Finally, on December 22, 1988, South Africa signed an agreement linking its withdrawal from the disputed territory to end Soviet and Cuban involvement in the long civil war in neighboring Angola. Finally on March 21, 1990 Namibia became a sovereign country which saw the return of exiled freedom fighters.