25 Jan 2011 - Story by Toivo Ndjebela
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WINDHOEK â€" Lieutenant-General Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah yesterday became the country's fourth chief of the Defence Force when he officially replaced Lieutenant-General Martin Shalli, who was dismissed from that position last week.
And the new sheriff at Talstrasse was immediately reminded by Defence Minister Charles Namoloh to "instil iron discipline in the force" to avoid "further misuse and damage" of property.
While the nation is still coming to terms with the shock departure of Shalli, it was a pomp and fanfare affair at the Independence Stadium yesterday, where army troops paraded in honour of their new chief.
Ndaitwah, whose appointment to the top army portfolio was announced by State House last week, was the first to admit that the mission bestowed on him by President Hifikepunye Pohamba to lead the country's defence force was no simple task.
Yet, he was quick to point out that if he has the political leadership's support, his forces would withstand the "turbulences" that the army faces in the 21st century.
Ndaitwah would be under pressure to match the successes of his star predecessors, the late Jerobeam 'Dimo' Amaambo, Salmon Hawala and Shalli, all of whom are soldiers of repute.
But the 58 year-old was also in no mood to compromise on what already is in place, vowing to defend the territory and national interest of Namibia unconditionally.
"I am fortunate to take over this responsibility after the foundation has been laid already," Ndaitwah said, in reference to his three pre-decessors.
He assured those in atten-dance, including Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Secretary to Cabinet Frans Kapofi and his wife and Environment and Tourism Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, that the Namibian Constitution would be the guiding principle on how he runs the defence force.
Namoloh, who handed over the symbols of authority to Ndaitwah yesterday, encouraged the new chief of the defence force to take firm command at the helm of the army and instil discipline in his troops.
"Only disciplined forces can win wars and succeed in military campaigns," said Namoloh, who described Ndaitwah as a veteran soldier.
The Defence Minister urged Ndaitwah to "keep the force apolitical" and to ensure that all citizens are treated equally.
Born on December 13, 1952 in the Ohangwena Region, Ndaitwah holds a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies, which he acquired from Nigeria's University of Ibadan in 2007.
He had several military trainings from Russia, the former Yugoslavia, India, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania, and is currently in his final year towards a Bachelor of Science in Public Management at the Polytechnic of Namibia.
Militarily, Ndaitwah has participated in the war of Namibia's liberation struggle between 1974 and 1989, having also held numerous military portfolios in the then liberation movement Swapo.
At independence in 1990, he was appointed the first military assistant to the Chief of the Defence Force, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
He became the chief of staff operations: plans and training in 1995 before becoming deputy army commander two years later.
He assumed the rank of major-general in 2008, two years after he served as chargĂ© d'Affaires of Namibia to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
With his new appointment as the new Chief of the Defence Force last week, Ndaitwah's rank has been elevated from major-general to lieutenant-general.