Nujoma: Reflections of an icon

By Sam Nujoma*

Sam Nujoma led Namibia to Independence and serve as its first President
Sam Nujoma led Namibia to Independence and serve as its first President

My maternal grandfather, Kondombolo Ka Kambulua, grew up in Uukuambi during the reign of Chief Nujoma UaHeelu.

Kondombolo was trained as a warrior and a herbalist.  My parents, like my grandfather and many generations before them, were born in Uukuambi and were both from the Royal Family.
My father was Utoni Daniel Nujoma uaMutshimba, Mutshimba guaKandenge, Kandenge ka Negumbo, Negumbo IjaKoongoti.
My mother was Mpingana Helvi ja Kondombolo, Kondombolo ka Nakathingo ja Kambulua ka Hango, Hango ja Ndjuluua ja Kiinge ka Mukongo, Mukongo guaTshijala, Tsha Namundjanga guaNambala.
Of my immediate family with whom I grew up at my parents’ home, I was the first born; born on 12 May 1929 in Ongandjera District.

We were 11 children all in all, but now we are only six – three boys and three girls.
As the eldest son, I had to look after the little ones, even carrying them on my back. I also had to look after the cattle and goats and do other household chores befitting a first-born son.

My father made sure that I was properly trained and prepared both mentally and physically to be self-reliant. I had to go through all rituals and had to journey to the salt pan known as Ekango lyOmongua.
When I grew older, boys of my age were forced to go under the contract labour system.
I departed from Ondangwa through Tsumeb to Grootfontein and caught a train to Swakopmund before continuing our journey to Walvis Bay.

I arrived in Walvis Bay in December 1946 and stayed with my aunt, Julia Gebhardt Nandjule.
In 1946, at the age of 17, I began to work for a monthly salary of 10 shillings at a general store owned by Hugo Ludwig, a German.
When my aunt Julia passed on, I went to Windhoek at the beginning of 1949 and joined my uncle, Hiskia Kondombolo, and started working by day while attending adult school at night.
I was also introduced to St Barnabas Night School by Tate Aron Hamutenya who was working for the South African Railway. We used to live in the old location.

In 1956, I got married to Theopoldine Kovambo Katjimune and had three sons; Utoni Daniel, John Ndeshipanda and Sakaria Nefungo plus one daughter, Nelago, born in 1959.
In 1957, at the age of 29, I resigned from the South African Railways with the purpose of devoting my time to politics.
On August 2, 1957, the Ovamboland People’s Organisation was formed by Namibians working in Cape Town but who were later deported to the north by the boers for petitioning to the United Nations.
As the spirit of Pan-Africanism grew in us with the independence of Ghana in 1957, we formed the Ovamboland People’s Organisation in Windhoek with the aim to end the South African colonial administration and the contract labour system.

It is against this background that we were involved in the Windhoek Uprising against the relocation to Katutura.
After December 10, 1959, I became fully involved in politics.
In February 1966, after constant harassment and incarceration by the apartheid colonial administration, a decision was taken by OPO and the Herero Chiefs’ Council for me to be taken out of the country to reinforce Fanuel Kazonguizi, Mburumba Kerina and Rev Michael Scott in their petitioning at the United Nations.

I left the country on February 29, 1960 and went to Francistown, Botswana; from Francistown to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia; from Salisbury to Northern Rhodesia; and from there to Mbeya then to Njombe and finally to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania where I met the late Cde Julius Nyerere, the President of Tanu.
He had just arrived from New York where he had been petitioning at the UN.
We discussed at length our plans concerning the liberation of the African continent.
He assisted me with money and arranged for me to travel to Khartoum in the Sudan; Accra, Ghana; Monrovia, Liberia and New York.

When Swapo was formed on April 19, 1960, I was elected President in absentia and continued to appeal to the UN to remove the territory of South West Africa and placed it under the UN Trusteeship System.
I returned from New York in early 1961 to establish Swapo offices in Dar-es-Salaam and the rest is history.
A Pan-African spirit

I have fond memories of the momentous event of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity.
On May 25, 1963, the Founding Fathers of the OAU met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to sign a historic Charter establishing the OAU, the fore-runner of the African Union.

I was honoured to attend this historic occasion, representing Swapo and the struggling people of Namibia together with other representatives of African National Liberation Movements with whom we engaged in a common struggle to defeat colonialism and the apartheid crime against humanity which also manifested itself in our country, Namibia, as a colonial oppressor.

As we carried out that difficult struggle, our peoples drew strength from the victories of each of our fighting forces while the setbacks experienced by any echelon of our struggling masses was correctly viewed as a setback for all of us.
Thus our presence in Addis Ababa emboldened our aspirations to fight for self-determination and national independence when for the first time; we witnessed the meaning of freedom for 32 independent, sovereign African states.

Through conversing with the leaders of these newly independent African states, we, the oppressed peoples, were inspired to tirelessly wage the struggle until the last vestiges of colonialism and minority white regimes were removed from the face of the African continent.
While those of my generation and I remember those early days, it is of utmost importance that our young people are also made aware of the glorious history of both their countries and the continent as we resolutely define the vision for Africa come the year 2063.

In my view, the theme of African Renaissance and Pan-Africanism is most appropriate for us to reflect on the struggle for the decolonisation of the African continent and our resounding victories in the fight against the minority white regimes in Southern Africa while at the same time, taking stock of the progress that we have made and the challenges ahead.

For centuries, the African people on the continent and those in the Diaspora, especially in the Americas and the Caribbean, were subjected to the agonies of slavery and, subsequently, colonial exploitation and subjugation.
However, I can proudly state that the African people did not submit to colonial subjugation and exploitation but rose up in arms to resist colonial occupation through Pan-Africanism.

As a consequence, during the early 1920s, Africans in the Diaspora, through collective efforts, started to intensify the promotion of the ideals of Pan-Africanism which became the philosophy of Africa’s political emancipation, economic recovery and cultural revival and the empowerment of Africans to chart their own future destiny.
I do not want to go into an extensive discussion on the history of Pan-Africanism.

For our purposes today, suffice to note that the birth of Pan-Africanism can be traced to the founding of the African Association in London in 1897 and the convening, in the same city, of the Pan-African Conference three years later by lawyer Henry Sylvester Williams of Trinidad and Tobago and uncle of George Padmore, who coined the term Pan-Africanism.

Other visionary Pan-Africanists in the Diaspora such as Paul Robeson, CLR James and Marcus Garvey advocated African self-determination with the motto “Africa for Africans”, which paved the way towards the intensification of political resistance against the colonial occupation of the African continent.
After the death of Williams in 1911, the Pan-Africanist movement was continued by WEB du Bois who ensured that a series of Pan-African conferences were held, with the most important being the 5th Pan-African Conference held in Manchester, England in 1945.

This conference was both the culmination of a historical process of the struggle of the African people on the continent and in the Diaspora, and was, indeed, the pinnacle of Pan-Africanism as it was attended by a large number of activists, including Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana who took an active and prominent part in the conference, serving as Secretary, while WEB du Bois was the Chairman.

The 5th Pan-African Conference underscored, as Nkrumah put it “for the first time the necessity for a well-organised. . .movement, as a primary condition for the success of the national liberation struggle in Africa, was stressed”.
In this regard, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who was a passionate believer in African unity, became a living link with the historic Pan-African Movement on the continent.

Furthermore, the Pan-African Movement was strengthened on the African continent when Ghana became the first African sub-Saharan country to gain its independence from Britain and organised the All-Africa People’s Conference in Accra in 1958 at a time when most African countries were still struggling against colonial rule.

The Accra meeting, for the first time, brought together on African soil, nationalists from all over Africa where the issue of solidarity and unity in the struggle against colonialism was the central theme of the meeting and provided an important psychological, political and practical boost to the nationalist movements within the framework of Pan-African unity.

On the African continent, apart from Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Pan-Africanism was kept alive by African nationalists such as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea Conakry, Modibo Keita of Mali, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Sao Tome et Principe, among many other liberation icons and visionary leaders on the continent and the Diaspora who played a critical role in the process leading to the formation of the OAU and inspired us to embark upon getting rid of all the vestiges of colonialism from Africa.

In this regard, it is with fond memories that I recall when I left the then South West Africa on February 29, 1960, crossing into Botswana and from there travelling to Zimbabwe, and on to the then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.
Long walk to freedom
Finally, I arrived in Mbeya in Eastern Tanzania which was still a British colony of Tanganyika, on March 21, 1960.
Little did I know that this would be the same day that our country would achieve its Independence, 30 years later.

On my way to petition the UN Committee on South West Africa in New York, I arrived in independent Ghana in April 1960 where I met for the first time President Dr Kwame Nkrumah, among other African leaders, who left a lasting impression on me and informed my Pan-African outlook.

I also met Frantz Fanon, representing the Algerian National Liberation Front led by Ahmed Ben Bella, the first Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Algeria who provided us with two sub-machine guns and two TT pistols with which we launched our armed liberation struggle on August 26, 1966 at Omugulu-gwoMbashe in northern Namibia when the torch of freedom was lit in our country until we attained our genuine freedom and independence on March 21, 1990.

In 1961, I attended the third All-Africa People’s Conference in Cairo, Egypt where I met with President Gamal Abdel Nasser and requested him to offer the opportunity of military training to our Swapo cadres.
In September 1961, I travelled to Yugoslavia to attend as an observer the launching of the Non-Aligned Movement under President Josip Broz Tito whom I met for the second time after our first meeting in 1960.

It was, therefore, of great historical importance when 32 independent African states came together in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, and signed the Charter which resulted in the establishment of the OAU.
In his address on that day, Dr Kwame Nkrumah stated: “Our objective is African union now. There is no time to waste. We must unite now or perish.”

Thus the OAU was established with the objectives of freeing our continent from the remaining vestiges of colonialism and minority white apartheid regime; to promote unity and solidarity among African states and peoples; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, and to promote international co-operation within the framework of the UN, among other objectives.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah also stated: “We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent.”
Through the OAU Co-ordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the continent worked and spoke as one voice with undivided determination in support of the liberation struggle and the fight against colonialism and the minority white regime of apartheid.

The OAU provided all-round political and material support to the national liberation movements through the Co-ordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa.
When I, on behalf of the struggling people of Namibia, and representatives of other African National Liberation Movements participated as observers at the formation of the OAU, our joint statement was read by Oginga Odinga, the then Vice-President of the Kenya African National Union of Jomo Kenyata who was still in detention.
At a later stage, President Nyerere insisted that the authentic liberation movements be given observer status.

President Nyerere then offered the Co-ordinating Committee operational headquarters in Dar-es-Salaam. In addition, President Nyerere, who was a visionary and fore-sighted revolutionary leader, offered training bases at Kongwa, Morogoro and Nashingweya in Tanzania to our freedom fighters who were fighting against Portuguese colonialism in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Sao Tome et Principe and the minority white apartheid colonial settlers in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.

Furthermore, President Nyerere requested the People’s Republic of China to provide experts to train our freedom fighters in the usage of fire arms, reconnaissance, as well as in scientific guerrilla warfare tactics in order to speed up the total liberation of the African continent.
When Zambia attained its independence in 1964, the Zambian government under the leadership of President Dr David Kenneth Kaunda, offered all-round support to the national liberation movements by providing us with rear bases.

In retaliation, the Portuguese colonial regimes in Mozambique and Angola, the lan Smith white colonial-settler regime in the former Southern Rhodesia, now the Republic of Zimbabwe, as well as the minority white apartheid regime in South Africa, which also colonised the former South West Africa, now Namibia, militarily attacked and imposed economic sanctions against Zambia.

However, in the true spirit of solidarity and African brotherhood, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, President Sir Seretse Khama of Botswana, President Dr Antonio Agostinho Neto of Angola, and President Samora Machel of Mozambique in 1975, later joined by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in 1980, formed the Frontline States against what seemed heavy odds and went beyond encouraging words in supporting our liberation struggle by resisting the machinations of the colonial forces to prevent us from liberating the remaining colonies in Southern Africa.

Equally worth mentioning here, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under the revolutionary Pan-Africanist General Murtala Mohamed, became fully involved in the liberation struggle in Southern Africa and as a result, the Frontline States, became known as the Frontline States and Nigeria.

We thus also pay homage to the important role played by the fore-sighted and revolutionary leader Dr Antonio Agostinho Neto of Angola who provided us the opportunity to establish rear bases and educational centres in Angola and helped us to relocate Swapo Provisional Headquarters from Lusaka to Luanda.
Indeed, in Namibia, our struggle for freedom and independence was part of the wider and total liberation of the African continent from colonialism and foreign occupation.
Africa’s last colony

Sadly, Africa still faces the unresolved case of colonialism in Western Sahara.
The continent has achieved many milestones, but the question of Western Sahara is a question that every self-respecting Pan-Africanist should champion.

For this reason, I call upon the Kingdom of Morocco, which rejoined the African Union, to support the holding of a free referendum for the people of Western Sahara for self-determination and national independence.
Today, Africa stands tall and its citizens occupy a special place among the people of the world as free and independent peoples charting their own future and common destiny of a continent defined by peace, security, development and prosperity; an African continent whose countries, individually and collectively, are free from poverty, disease, underdevelopment and ignorance; and a continent that would ensure that the 21st does indeed become an African century.

These, as the honourable members are all aware, are the logical outcomes of the dream of Pan-Africanism and an African Renaissance and constitute the objectives of an African agenda, as enunciated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

Indeed, after 39 years of its existence, African leaders decided to dissolve the OAU and reconstitute it as a new organisation that will address the numerous challenges facing the continent.
This led to the next stage which saw the establishment of the African Economic Community at the 27th Summit of the OAU in Abuja, Nigeria June 2-6, 1991.

The signed Abuja Treaty laid down detailed stages for economic integration at both regional and continental levels to eventually lead not only to free trade, but also a common currency.
The AEC was prompted by the necessity of collective planning and action to build intra-continental economic relations for the benefit of the African people.

Through it, we agreed, as Africans, that we needed to do more to strengthen existing regional economic communities, create new ones where necessary, and ensure that we achieve intra and inter-regional co-operation in all areas of human endeavour.

We also agreed on such important economic matters as trade liberalisation in each regional economic community; the adoption of a common trade policy and working towards a common external tariff to establish a common African market.

Again, we committed ourselves to a gradual elimination of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and the right of residence among member states.

In this regard, regional economic communities such as the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and Economic Community for West African States (Ecowas) constitute critical building blocks of the envisaged African integration.
Thus the treaty is expected to lead ultimately to the formation of an Africa-wide monetary union and economic community by 2025.

Accordingly, the vision and programmes of the AU and Nepad are rooted in the long-standing desire, commitment and efforts of the African people to work together for the integration of our economies as well as the creation of a continental socio-political unity that would facilitate the faster development of our countries.

Now, the AU, formally launched in Durban, South Africa on July 9, 2002 to provide new direction to our collective efforts and to face the developmental challenges more effectively has to pursue and hasten the programme laid down in the Abuja Treaty.

As we look forward over the next 50 years to 2063, we need to ask ourselves what we would wish to see for our continent. What are the primary issues we need to focus on during this time?
No unity, no future

In my view, we should vigorously embark upon the second phase of the struggle; namely to bring about total and genuine economic independence.
Ghana’s First President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, in perhaps his greatest speech ever on May 24, 1963, on the eve of the founding of the OAU, put it eloquently when he stated: “Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist control and interference.”
Therefore, the struggle for economic independence will be long and difficult. It requires embarking upon scientific research, proper planning and hard work.

As we are all aware, the African continent is endowed with abundant natural resources. Therefore, investing in infrastructure is the key to Africa’s growth.
In this regard, the Grand Inga hydro-electric plant in the People’s Democratic Republic of Congo should be developed beyond mere rhetoric in order to provide AU Members with cheap and adequate electricity supply.

Our economic strength depends substantially on our mastery of science and technology. It is this very same mastery that enables any country’s citizens to fully exploit its natural resources and wealth.
For Africa to succeed, we must join hands and work as a team.
It is important that we tap on the expertise of our brothers in the Diaspora and embark upon strategies which promote manufacturing and adding value to our natural resources.
It is only in that manner that we will be able to create wealth, enhance economic growth and improve the competitiveness of our economies in international markets.

Furthermore, I believe that one of the effective strategies to reach our goals is through educating and training our youth, especially in the scientific fields so that we can produce our own agriculturalists, medical doctors, engineers, scientists and other technical personnel who will play an active role in the industrialisation and modernisation of our economies.

Thus our efforts to promote continental integration must place education of our people at the top of our priorities as key elements in addressing development challenges.
It is clear that the renewed geo-political interest in Africa, especially its natural resources and potential markets, is leading to attempts by former colonial powers to reclaim the ground we have gained in terms of African self-determination.

Therefore, the profoundly retrogressive developments on the continent are a direct consequence of the unstable security and political situation such as the one that was created by the forces of imperialists under the membership of Nato who overthrew Colonel Muammar Gaddafi without due consideration of severe repercussions of their actions.

As Africans, we have a responsibility to promote peace and security on the continent because when peace is restored, Africa as a whole stands to benefit.
We must, therefore, consolidate, guard and defend our hard-won freedom, democracy, peace, security and political stability.

Thus it is imperative for our governments to support the efforts of the AU Peace and Security Council in order to maintain peace and stability and enhance economic development on the continent.
As Africans, we must unite because it is only when we are united that we can successfully enhance the total integration of the continent with a single African currency and a single passport.

In this regard, President Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania said: “My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination and carry it forward.”

I am also happy to learn that some among us will be honoured with an award in recognition of our efforts in removing the last vestiges of colonialism from Africa as a whole.

In conclusion, I call upon the current generation to dare not fail in their historic mission of building “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by Africans “.
For that to happen, our youth should not allow themselves to be divided through the old tactic of divide and rule, but must unite.

Indeed, as President Nyerere further emphasised, “without unity, there is no future for Africa”.
I, therefore, call on the African youth to prepare themselves to defend the territorial integrity, the territorial waters and the airspace of the African continent against imperialists and foreign aggressors.
I believe a united people striving to achieve common good for all members of the society will always emerge victorious.

*Source Sunday Mail.His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma is Namibia’s Founding Father and former President. He was speaking to Zimpapers Television Network in Windhoek, Namibia on February 13, 2017

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