Diescho’s Dictum – Namibia the Most Peaceful and Most Stable Country in Afrika

On the 8th through to the 10th of July 2014 the Forum of Commonwealth Heads of African Public Service held its 11th conference in Port Louis, Mauritius. This year’s theme was ‘E-Government for Inclusive and Sustainable Development’ in Afrika. I was honoured to be part of a small Namibian delegation to this conference led by the Secretary to Cabinet, Frans Kapofi, one of the most capable Secretaries to Cabinet in the world, and the reverence with which he was greeted by his esteemed peers, affirmed that he was the Primus Inter Pares, the first among equals.

As a novice in public service I learnt more about the subject from my Namibians colleagues in the delegation who possess so much knowledge and understanding of our public service and its challenges. Henri Kassen, Director for Information and Communication Technology in the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology with his well-rounded knowledge and superior understanding of our IT challenges and opportunities, Tuyakula Haipinge, Director for Human Resource Planning and Development in the Office of the Prime Minister with her genteel and unassuming grasp of performance issues and the possibilities in store Erastus Amutenya, Director for Public Service (IT) Management in the Office of the Prime Minister, with his disarming ability to unravel e-governance issues to those of us who are bewildered by the sounds of e-something, and Neville Andre, the able assistant to the secretary to cabinet with his discerning and penetrating explanations that bespeak a contemplative presence, made me understand and appreciate how much we have going for us and how much better we could do to build this small nation if we put our minds and energies together with a sense of urgency and ownership.

The ambience was awesome and the President of Mauritius, Rajkeswur Purryag, himself a more than seasoned public servant who served his nation for over 40 years, opened the deliberations with a sense of urgency about modifying the public service in Afrika to be more responsive to the needs of the citizens who deserve more. In his opening remarks the Acting Director of Governance and Natural Resources Aisory Services Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat said that Mauritius was adjudged the most peaceful country in Africa in the 2014 Global Peace Index, a publication by the London based the Institute of Economics and Peace.

Hearing this was a pinch moment for me and it is about this that I am writing this dictum today. While I appreciate wholeheartedly that Mauritius is a peaceful and yes remarkably growing country on a small island that is hardly visible on the map, I must boldly make the assertion that Namibia is the most peaceful and most stable country on the Afrikan continent. I make this argument with humility, boldness and confidence for the following reasons.

First, the trajectories of nation-building in Namibia and Mauritius are vastly different in many ways. Mauritius as far as we know never emerged from the ashes of a liberation war, as did Namibia. Even though peace is not just the absence of war but the presence of justice, one cannot truthfully appreciate the building and sustaining of peace by people who emerged out of a war the same as those who do not bear scars of war.

I argue that it is more difficult to build peace from the ashes of war as the Namibian leaders have over the past 24 years. It is harder to keep former foes as fellow citizens together than to mobilise ordinary civilians who have no bad memories of one another. Hence even today, 46 years after its attainment of independence, Mauritius still does not have a standing army. All military, police, and security functions are carried out by 10,000 active-duty officers under the command of the Commissioner of Police. If it is true that there is something in a name, then here it is: Namibia derives from the Namib desert, that inhospitable landscape that shielded our ancestors from the encroachments of the European uninvited guests for a long while, like the mosquito protected the dwellers of west Africa, whereas Mauritius derives its name from Prince Maurice van Nassau or Maurits Prins van Oranje (1567-1625), who was honoured for his rulership of seven provinces of the Netherlands

Second, the current Mauritius was never colonised as and then rendered into servitude as we were in the land of own ancestors. The majority of Mauritians never suffered the sting of colonisation as Namibians did. The currently franchised inhabitants of the island today are immigrants who either chose to move there from other countries or who, after the slavery chose to make the country their own. They were not found there by the colonisers. Third, it is far easier to unite a nation that is predominantly homogenous with one main language, one culture and one tradition. In spite of its rich historical cultural kaleidoscope, Mauritius today is predominantly Indian and Hindu, speaking Mauritian Creole, French and English.

There are hardly any signs of Mauritians of African descent who also bore the brunt of European slavery, and whose sweat, toil and blood the island’s economy was built. Fourth, Mauritians can hardly speak of violence in their history compared to the vortex of violence that was part and parcel of the pre-independence society in Namibia, and the ashes from which the post-independence SWAPO-led government managed to create a nation that never was. This violence was characterized by the genocide at the beginning of the 20th century, the new phase which commenced with the courageous acts at Omungulu-wombashe and beyond, not to mention the untold suffering visited upon the different societies in Namibia following the Odendaal balkanization plan which saw more ten tribal bogus governments with intolerant nincompoop homeland leaders with their apparatuses – Koevoet and Rooioogbende who would pull the trigger, stab the knife or do anything to hurt life and limb at the slightest provocation.

This is the backdrop against which peace and stability ought to be measured. Here is what the Namibian leaders have done to lay the foundation for peace and stability in an unprecedented fashion on the continent.

First, the leaders of all formations came to accept that the country belonged to all who lived in it and that most of the existing differences were orchestrated by people with similar motives. Here mention must be made of SWAPO and the DTA who were the main tectonic plates with a possibility of collision that would have brought about tsunami. Instead the leaders of these parties, later together with smaller political formations found one another in that august Constitution Assembly which directed and crafted the Constitution which is second to none of and for the Republic of Namibia.

One of the historical tests at the time was that in the first ever national and democratic elections in the country, the leading force SWAPO received less that 60% of the vote, yet accepted the outcome with grace and created a nation and government wherein even the poorest performers are invited to sit in the legislative chambers of the people. SWAPO continued to ‘need’ and value the participation of others, unlike in other parts of Afrika where elections are a zero sum game with untenable violence.

In the subsequent years, as part of the hard earned freedom and independence, a system evolved to consolidate democracy buttressed by unity, liberty and justice. In the last 24 years, save for the terrible hiccup that was caused by Mishake Muyongo’s hay fever and the Unita’s aenturism in the north, the Namibian nation enjoyed peace and stability throughout.

Second we the blind can see that Namibia has built a foundational culture of good governance from scratch over the last 24 years- and this is no small accomplishment on a continent that continues to be haunted by intermittent elections that produce more instability than stability. Namibia held five general elections to date, and the outcome was to all intents and purposes binding on all.

Third, a hallmark of peace as both a necessary and sufficient condition for democracy is peaceful transfer of political power. After 24 years, is on President Number 2 as a result of both intra-party and national electoral democratic processes. To all intents and purposes, Namibia was one of if not the first to witness real peaceful transfer if state power from the first to the second President of the Republic, and the two men remain comrades and work together to steward this nation forward. The same cannot be said about our neighbours in the south who gained their liberation four years later, but already had the first post-apartheid coup in September 2008 when President Thabo Mbeki was removed from power. The consternation within the ANC as a result of the removal of President Mbeki and the subsequent chilling relationship between Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma are there for all to see and can only augur for instability and disequilibrium in the ruling party in particular and the nation in general.

Fourth, one of the strengths of Namibia is that in spite of the more than necessary number of political parties, there have been no political assassinations or killings within or across our political parties. No one can accuse the Namibian government of the kind of political intolerance the continent of Afrika is known for. In Namibia critical voices are not muzzled willy-nilly, journalists have not been caused to disappear at the command of some high office. We all know how Angola was strewn with dead bodies for decades due to political intolerance and indifference of political leaders. Just between 2005 and 2013, over 40 political assassinations have been reported in post-apartheid South Africa. Namibia does not suffer that blemish on its face and character and therefore we have reason to be proud of what we had established and salute our leaders across the political party landscape thus far for the edifices they had built.

With all our shortcomings and challenges, yes, we must never take for granted that that we had done well, very well thus far. This is so because the centre in Namibia is holding firm. Hence the international recognition of Namibia as the number one country with freedom of expression on the Afrikan continent. This is indeed a big sign of peace and stability. Lastly, one of the hallmarks if a true democracy is when past leaders remain relevant and are respected in the body politic of the nation as it goes through change and growing pains. President Nujoma is still a revered leader in all corners of our nation. This is extraordinary a tale in Afrika and the world for that matter! Here is more: in the last several weeks and months, President Pohamba with his head, heart and hands has been using his dignified presence by repeating that he is about to leave active politics after completing his constitutional two terms, as per our system, and he continues to implore the international community and the Namibian people to support his successor who will be sworn in as the third President of the Republic on 21 March 2015. Again this is both extraordinary and exemplary in managing transition so that there is no need for anxiety as we see in many parts of the globe. If we continue on this oath and make it our way of political life in our small but powerful nation, nothing will stop us from becoming the beacon of hope for others, even bigger and richer nations.

Source : New Era