Riruako’s Burial to Begin Today

GRIEF-stricken family members, friends and members of the public will pay their last respects to the late paramount chief of the Ovaherero people, Kuaima Riruako, at the memorial service in his honour at the Parliament Gardens today.

Tributes for the late parliamentarian are expected from all parts of the country, as many described him as a great leader and a dedicated community builder, also known for his stern side and his discipline and outspokenness.

Brian and Mathilda Riruako described their father as a down-to-earth and a humble man and their pillar of strength.

He was a founding member of the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) in 1964. Some 39 years later, he led the party out of the DTA to contest elections under its own name.

He entered the National Assembly (NA) in 1995 and was the DTA’s spokesperson on lands, resettlement and rehabilitation until his resignation from the party in September 2003.

After quitting parliament and the DTA, Riruako registered Nudo as an independent party. DTA leader Katuutire Kaura’s attempts to stop Riruako from using the name Nudo failed in court in early 2004.

Riruako took part in the presidential election in 2004, coming fourth out of seven candidates with 4% of the vote. He headed Nudo in the NA after the party gained three seats.

Since breaking with the DTA, Riruako made several calls for Namibia to become a federal state.

He dismissed comparisons between Nudo and the Caprivi separatist movement saying: “We are not calling for secession or tribal violence.

We want a federal system to give minority groups an equal opportunity to participate in the way they are ruled.”

Riruako led attempts to sue the German government and several companies for US$4 billion in the US courts, arguing they bear responsibility for the 1904-1907 genocide of the Ovaherero people.

He also played a prominent role in demanding that Germany pay reparation for the genocide.

Riruako was not officially recognised as the paramount chief of the Ovaherero then.

In 2001 Riruako and 39 other unrecognised Ovaherero chiefs bought a court case against the government over the dispute. The High Court set aside the government’s decision not to recognise the chiefs and since then negotiations proceeded on possible settlement of the case.

Riruako lived in exile from 1964 to 1977, first in Botswana, Ghana and Zambia and in the 1970s in the United States of America.

He was chosen as the seventh paramount chief of the Ovaherero in 1978, following the assassination of Clemence Kapuuo.

From 1987-1990 he was president of DTA. Between 1986 and 1987 he was also a member of the Constitutional Council, a body that was mandated to come up with a new constitution during the Transitional Government of National Unity.

Chief Riruako was admitted to the Roman Catholic Hospital intensive care unit on 26 April due to high blood pressure where he remained until his death on 2 June at the age of 79. He will be accorded a State funeral.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba also directed that all flags in the country must fly at half-mast with effect from today until after the funeral on Sunday.

The President further instructed that a memorial service in honour of the chief will be held at Parliament Gardens in Windhoek today.

The late chief will be laid to rest at the Okahandja Herero heroes and heroines’ cemetery.

He is survived by his wife and 16 children.

Source : The Namibian