Namibia: the Jewel of Africa
WINDHOEK – Three African topics come to my mind for this article: Senegal, where the much-awaited verdict on the highly political trial of Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, was released on 23 March 2015 (six years jail term and 200- million euros fine); Nigeria, poised to undergo the toughest test of its democratic experience amidst sharp decline in oil prices and the intensification of the War on Boko Haram (WBH, to take a leaf from the George Bush Jr War on Terror); and Namibia, which on March 21st witnessed the swearing-in ceremony of its new President, Dr Hage Geingob.
Not easy to select one topic among them as the theme of this article. Considering that the first two options belong to the mould of the negatives so prevalent in Africa, let me, for the sake of my own belief in Africa’s future, and choose the third one, which indeed symbolises the positive side of our continent.
From Windhoek, where I am writing, after attending the transfer of power from outgoing President Hifikepunye Pohamba to incoming Dr Hage Geingob, in a colourful and joyous ceremony, held at the Independence Stadium on Saturday March 21, I felt eager to talk about this subdued narrative of a country that is quietly, yet decisively, showing the way forward, blazing its trail without much noise but with an effectiveness that deserves to be better known across our continent.
A bit of context is needed here. Namibia is one of the youngest African nations. It became independent on March 21st, 1990, after a long liberation struggle led by the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo). What accelerated the end of the foreign control over the Land of the Brave, as Namibia is affectionately known, was also the implementation of United Nations Resolution 435, adopted on September 29, 1978. That Resolution put forward proposals for a cease-fire and UN-supervised elections in South African-controlled South West Africa, which ultimately led to the independence of Namibia. It called for the withdrawal of outside forces that, for a long period, were deployed across Southern Africa – mainly Cuban and American. That was the time of a dying cold war era. Namibia’s independence also paved the way for the dismantling of apartheid as a few months later Nelson Mandela was freed from jail thus clearing the road to the first genuinely democratic elections in South Africa, in April 1994.
Upon reclaiming its sovereignty, Namibia could have gone the same wrong way many other African nations had followed which led them into so many troubles like internal conflicts, economic mismanagement, political tensions, etc.
What happened here is a narrative of an African country that so far has done well. Under its first president, the hero of national liberation, Sam Nujoma, the country has been able to assert its africanity by ensuring that the black majority, real owners of the land, are in charge. As the party that conducted the fight for freedom and independence, Swapo took control of the country by fiercely defending it from any recurrence of foreign domination. Seen through such lenses, one can vouch that Nujoma played his role and deserves his title as father of the nation.
His successor, Hifikepunye Pohamba, has exited without insistence from his position after his two legally authorised five years’ terms of office. On March 21, 2015, he was celebrated as a hero of democracy, good governance and effective leadership. No wonder he is the winner of the 2014 Mo Ibrahim Prize of governance and leadership. Not a single African leader got this prize for the past six years. Pohamba got it by his self-effacing type of leadership which turned out to be dramatically competent. The numbers speak for the country. The economy is doing well, its rating decent and the political climate peaceful.
As a leader, Pohamba will not have sleepless nights wondering whether someone will knock at his door to ask for money stolen or to defer to the international criminal courts. He is one leader that will be celebrated nationally and internationally. But in the short time, he has chosen to go back to his farm, to become a farmer. Kudos, Boss!
Welcome Geingob. The new President of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob, is clearly a leader of the calibre of his predecessors. Gentleman to the core, with a great sense of humour and humility, and a gratitude which makes him remember the Zambian driver, Rexon, who saved his life nearly fifty years ago, the new President of Namibia is also, and, mainly, a man of substance.
Witness his inauguration speech during which he declared an all out war on poverty saying that ‘’one does not eat a constitution’’ and pointing to key features of his presidency, such as providing shelter, feeding people, and fighting inequality.
In a country that is, like most Southern African nations, still struggling with the legacy of foreign and racist domination which gave the land to the white minority, one must expect the new Namibian President to grapple also with that much emotive land issue as the ‘’willing seller, willing buyer” approach chosen here has not delivered the goods.
As a competent and balanced leader, who promised to govern for the profit of ‘’all’’ Namibians, Geingob is certainly well crafted to handle the issues confronting Namibia while building further on the achievements it has recorded since independence.
In sum, for whoever is looking for a sound justification of the Africa rising scenario making the headlines these days, the best place to come to is Namibia. Peaceful, democratic, well governed, it symbolises the Africa we want. It was indeed why key African leaders, including Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, Angola’s Dos Santos, Tanzania’s Kikwete, or the architect of the implementation of Resolution 435, Martti Ahtisaari, former Finland President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, were all in attendance on that glorious day of March 21st which marks the beginning of another milestone in the march to progress and peace, democracy of a star African nation.
We are definitely far away from the sounds of guns tearing apart northern Nigeria, the uncertainties of a democratic competition in Africa’s most populous nation, or the travails of the Senegalese justice to sort out a democracy destroyed by looters of the nation. Namibia, oye, well done! – New Era
• Adama Gaye is Senegalese and former editor of West Africa Magazine. He is an author and business consultant