Nujoma (77) goes back to school

He is pursuing a masters degree in geology at the University of Namibia, the institution he witnessed being founded in 1980 and helped upgrade to a university eight years later. Nujoma, 77, believes that education is a process that never ends. “As long as one is alive, one must do something in life,” said Nujoma in an interview at his office in Windhoek. He said Africa is yet to attain economic independence, which he says is the second stage of the struggle to rid the continent of injustices. The former Namibian leader noted that Africa must work hard to attain economic independence because political freedom will only be fully attained if there is economic freedom. “As Africans, we need to launch a second struggle for economic independence. We have to develop our own continent because nobody else will,” he said, adding “Even you journalists, if you do not write positively about your continent, nobody will do it.” Like in many southern African countries, Namibia’s independence on 21 March 1990 was an emotion-provoking achievement, particularly to those who led the struggle or lost their sons and daughters during the war. Apart from the passion he has for education, Nujoma is among several former African leaders who are actively involved in regional and continental initiatives that are taking place. He is a staunch supporter of goals of the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and Southern African Development Community (SADC). Nujoma also makes time to attend to the Sam Nujoma Foundation (SNF), a charitable organisation that offers financial assistance to Namibian students studying science and technology as well as provide care for orphaned and HIV-infected children. The initiative is similar to the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The two organisations were formed in honour of the first post-independence presidents of Zambia and South Africa, respectively. The SNF gives support to orphans whose parents were victims of HIV and AIDS and provides assistance to the physically challenged and vulnerable people. It also gives scholarships to students in the fields of engineering, geology, architecture and medicine. “My foundation supports students in these fields because I know that they will contribute to the development of this country. These subjects are crucial in development,” he said. The former Namibian president said he was among SADC leaders who spearheaded a project to connect the African continent from coast to coast through infrastructural developments such as roads and telecommunications. “Southern Africa is the only [region in Africa] at the moment connected from coast to coast. Without transport and communication, there can not be development,” he said. Namibia’s founding father said unity and peace must be the bedrock on which Africa’s development is based. He says without this, there will continue to be conflicts on the continent. “We must all strive to maintain peace at all costs,” he said. Commenting on Africa’s liberation struggle, Dr Nujoma gives credit to Zambia and other neighbouring countries for the help they rendered to his country’s freedom. Nujoma lived in Zambia for 10 years during the liberation struggle and witnessed Zambia’s first independence celebrations on 24 October 1964. He speaks Bemba, one of Zambia’s major languages. Nujoma said he draws great inspiration from the Zambian people and its leaders. “We had great freedom fighters and great leaders who sacrificed a lot for the liberation struggle. People lost their lives for the sake of Africa’s freedom. We had a committed leadership with comrades like Kenneth Kaunda,” he said. Nujoma remembers how Zambia, under the leadership of Kaunda gave Africa a revolutionary example that was followed by other countries. ‘

April 2006
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