Namibia elec­tion a chip off the old block

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

WIND­HOEK — This year, Namibia un­veiled a hill­top statue of in­de­pen­dence leader Sam Nu­joma hold­ing aloft a copy of the African coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion, which was amended to let him to serve three terms as pres­i­dent un­til 2005.

With the rul­ing party he led poised for another elec­tion win this week, an­a­lysts say a tougher test of Namib­ian democ­racy will come when an op­po­si­tion party wins.

It is a model that holds true in other parts of Africa where lib­er­a­tion move­ments that fought colo­nial­ism and white mi­nor­ity rule mor­phed into dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal par­ties for decades.

While some brought sta­bil­ity and more rights, their lengthy con­trol of state re­sources and pa­tron­age net­works fu­eled in­creas­ing re­sent­ment among op­po­si­tion groups.

Elec­tions this year in Botswana, Mozam­bique and South Africa, where rul­ing par­ties posted com­fort­able wins de­spite ro­bust chal­lenges, fit the mould.

In Zim­babwe, Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe has kept con­trol since in­de­pen­dence in 1980 with a se­ries of dis­puted elec­tions and crack­downs on dis­sent.

In Le­sotho, po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and even vi­o­lence has be­set a rare African power-shar­ing ex­per­i­ment in the form of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

Zam­bia, how­ever, has had peace­ful changes of rul­ing par­ties at the polls.

“The par­ties them­selves must re­al­ize that the fact that you brought in­de­pen­dence doesn’t mean that you own the peo­ple,” said Muna Ndulo, a law pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of Cor­nell Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute for African De­vel­op­ment.

Some rul­ing par­ties, he said, may find it chal­leng­ing to let go of power in a peace­ful trans­fer if they lose an elec­tion.

The pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of Namibia’s rul­ing SWAPO party in to- mor­row’s par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions is Prime Min­is­ter Hage Gein­gob, who cam­paigned for in­de­pen­dence decades ago at the United Na­tions. If elected, he would suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Hi­fikepunye Po­hamba, who is step­ping down after serv­ing two five-year terms.

The new statue of Mr Nu­joma (85) stands in front of a re­cently in­au­gu­rated in­de­pen­dence mu­seum that was built with the help of de­sign­ers from North Korea, trig­ger­ing ques­tions about the project cost and the re­la­tion­ship with the se­cre­tive Asian state.

The mu­seum, a shiny struc­ture perched on three gi­ant pil­lars, looms over the Namib­ian cap­i­tal, Wind­hoek.

It is near a cen­tury-old church built by Ger­man col­o­niz­ers whose slaugh­ter of the lo­cal peo­ple shapes a trau­matic nar­ra­tive in this arid coun­try of two mil­lion peo­ple on the At­lantic Ocean.

The Ger­man church on Fidel Castro Street con­tains a plaque with names of Ger­mans who died dur­ing the colo­nial power’s mas­sacres of tribes­men in the early 20th cen­tury.

Up the road is a new “Geno­cide Memo­rial Statue” that de­picts colo­nial sol­diers lynch­ing vic­tims.

South Africa oc­cu­pied what is now Namibia after the de­feat of Ger­man forces there in World War I and later im­posed its apartheid sys­tem of racial sep­a­ra­tion.

SWAPO guer­ril­las fought South African troops in a Cold War-era con­flict that ended with Un-su­per­vised elec­tions in 1989. In­de­pen­dence was de­clared in 1990.

Mod­ern Namibia en­joys po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and ben­e­fits from ma­jor di­a­mond and ura­nium re­serves as well as rev­enue from tourists drawn to its stark land­scapes, in­clud­ing the Namib Desert.

Mr Gein­gob, the prime min­is­ter, ac­knowl­edged that Namibia still has high poverty and lacks ad­e­quate health fa­cil­i­ties.

“No child should be taught un­der a tree,” he has said, re­fer­ring to the need for more school build­ings.

At a re­cent film fes­ti­val in the south­ern African coun­try, three new films told sto­ries about a re­bel­lious girl, an un­set­tled pro­tag­o­nist who re­turns to her des­o­late home­town and the mi­gra­tions of the Herero peo­ple led by Sa­muel Ma­harero, a chief who fought Ger­man colonis­ers.

“We’re still try­ing to find our voice and we’re try­ing to get a lot of things out of our sys­tem,” said Tim Hueb­schle, a fes­ti­val or­ga­nizer.

“Give it a cou­ple of years and I think the themes of this coun­try will be­come clearer in terms of sto­ry­telling.”

— AP

NAMIB­IAN Pres­i­dent Hi­fikepunye Po­hamba (cen­tre left) and first lady Pene­hupifo Po­hamba (cen­tre right) ar­rive at the Sam Nu­joma Sta­dium in Wind­hoek, Namibia for an elec­tion rally last Satur­day.

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