Massacre survivors call for recognition

On 4 May 1978, hundreds of Namibians in exile at Cassinga camp in southern Angola died after the refugee camp was besieged by the Southern African apartheid forces. “We were tear-gassed, bombed, bayoneted at close range as soldiers were dropped from the sky,” narrated survivor, Agnes Kafula at an emotional gathering in Katutura, Windhoek. The ceremony ‘ which was attended by members of parliament, chiefs, church leaders and ministers ‘ was held with a candlelight vigil led by tearful 30 other survivors. Kafula appealed to the Swapo government to grant an opportunity to relatives of the massacred Namibians “to go and view the Cassinga Mass Grave”. Her sentiments were echoed by former Prime Minister Hage Gaingob who called on the government and the populace not to take the day for granted. “We would not enjoy the sunshine if there was no rain, we would not have appreciated good health if there was no pain. If we never had the pains of Cassinga, then we would never have cherished these good days of freedom,” he said. A distant survivor of the massacre, Gaingob noted how colonialism was a slavery chaining Africans, “but because we have resilience, we as black people must show the world how to survive out of the worst. Everyone must come now and join the Swapo government in national reconciliation.” Kafula had earlier called for the government to print a well-documented booklet narrating all the events of the day where pregnant women had their bellies slit open and foetuses smashed by gun butts of the apartheid forces. “It was barbaric!” recalled the former premier. “White people do not forget history, they are still haunted by the holocaust and they do not forget their history, why do we want to take our history for granted? We must not forget to forgive,” said Gaingob after Kafula had hinted that the “wounds may heal but the scars remain”. The Katutura ceremony, attended by hundreds of Windhoek residents, was the one of the many that were held across the country as Namibians paid homage to those whose blood waters freedom.

May 2006
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