A nation that honours its heroes, honours itself ‑ Nujoma
Omugulu-gwoombashe – Namibia’s Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, considers the statue that was erected in his honour at Omugulu-gwoombashe as a collective accomplishment, resolve and an affirmation of the aspirations of all Namibians.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba in the presence of his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall, unveiled a giant statue of Nujoma during the Heroes Day commemoration on August 26, 2013.
The village of Omugulu-gwoombashe in Tsandi constituency of Omusati region is considered the birthplace of Namibia’s armed struggle for independence, for it is here that on August 26, 1966, South African colonial forces launched a surprise attack on a SWAPO base.
The attack was on a group of South West Africa Liberation Army (SWALA), SWAPO’s first military wing and the forerunner to the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN).
Nujoma, who led SWAPO’s struggle against apartheid rule, expressed gratitude to the Namibian government and its people for erecting a statue in his honour, saying that the country that honours its citizens, honours itself.
Dressed in military fatigue, Nujoma said he considered the honour bestowed upon him “as the collective, accomplishment, resolve and an affirmation of the aspirations of the people.
“I accept this honour on behalf of Namibian people in recognition of their struggle and sacrifices for the freedom and human dignity.”
“Self-definition is a self-empowerment mechanism that goes a long way in forging a common identity in any nation. Therefore, by naming historic sites and monuments after own heroes and heroines, we assert who we are because a nation that honours its citizens, honours itself,” he said.
Nujoma was addressing thousands of people who flocked to Omugulu-gwoombashe to honour Namibia's heroes and heroines who laid down their lives during the struggle for Namibia's independence.
While addressing thousands of people gathered for the occasion, Nujoma delved into the history of liberation struggle saying the journey to independence was a long and tough journey, through which many people lost their lives and properties.
The former statesman stressed that: “Thousands of people suffered at the hands of colonial forces. Some died in prisons, while others disappeared without trace. People’s properties were destroyed, including the homesteads and mahangu (millet) fields but our people wavered until our final victory was achieved on 21 March 1990.”
He emphasised that Namibia owes its freedom to the victims of genocide during the war of resistance waged by the forefathers from early 1900s such as Hedrick Witbooi, Nehale Lya Mpingana and Iipumbu Ya Tshilongo as well as to the mass protests led by fearless Namibia men and women on December 10, 1959, in Windhoek.
“We owe our freedom to the public demonstrations by the students and youth against the inferior Bantu education system imposed on the indigenous people by the white minority apartheid regime of South Africa in the late seventieth,” he said.
Nujoma also paid homage to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of the African Union (AU), for rendering and mobilising political, diplomatic and material support to the SWAPO fighters.
On unveiling the statue, President Pohamba congratulated Nujoma saying that the statute signifies the role he played as the then Commander-in-Chief of SWAPO's military wing that fought the South African colonialism in Namibia.
Pohamba further praised Nujoma for the role he played as a leader of the national liberation movement, together with other leaders and Namibians in general saying that he “is an iconic freedom fighter, liberator and founding president of the Namibian Nation and it is because of him and other fighters that Namibia is free today”.
Pohamba described the Heroes Day as one of those solemn occasions when people come together as a nation to honour all those who have demonstrated strong character, bravery and patriotism in the face of great danger.
Namibia’s independence did not come on a silver platter, said President Pohamba, adding that Namibians shed their blood and lost their lives as they fiercely resisted colonialism.
“We remember thousands of innocent civilians, men, women and children who were killed, tortured, subjected to inhumane treatment and imprisoned in both Namibia and South Africa,” he said.
President Pohamba said now that the country is politically independent, it is now time to fight for socio-economic independence, saying that Namibians could only honour their heroes and heroines by striving for economic independence and social justice.
“Political independence will be meaningless if not accompanied by the socio-economic independence, which means we need to work hard to improve the living standard of all our people,” he said.
He further said: “Namibians should uphold the values and pursue the goals which those heroes and heroines died for. Sacrifices and patriotism were the foundation upon which Namibia was built.
“Those of us who were fortunate enough to be alive and witness the dawn of freedom, have a sacred duty to put the interests of our people and our country before everything else.”
The country has a duty to do its utmost best in order to keep the flame of the heroic liberation struggle burning and make Namibia a better place for the present and future generations, he added.
Taking stock of what the government has achieved so far, President Pohamba noted that the government has put in place various development programmes aimed at improving the living standards of the people, especially the youth who are the leaders of tomorrow.
Although the government had made momentous improvements in areas of education, health, housing and sanitation, President Pohamba said a lot needs to be done, especially in terms of housing.
“We, as leaders, need to come up with an innovative way of making sure that our people got land. If the willing buyer, willing seller is not working, let’s come up with other methods that will bear fruits. The fight was for us to have land,” he charged.