The Biggest Challenge to Reconciliation

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK THE discovery of human remains around former South African army bases in the north of the country is the greatest challenge to the policy of reconciliation since Independence. This is the view of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana who spoke yesterday in the National Assembly. “As it is well known, a number of graves have been surfacing across the former war zone in the north of Namibia. These graves are most likely the unbefitting resting places for PLAN captured combatants, but perhaps also prisoners or even abducted community members,” Iivula-Ithana told the House. She said the ordeal of the graves has only begun. “Our High Commission in South Africa continues to receive calls from persons claiming to have served in the armed forces and those that claim and name areas where graves are to be found in northern Namibia. There are evidently more graves yet to be discovered,” she asserted. In a controlled voice, but very emotional tone, she spoke of incidents in which people were executed. “Some of them were abducted, some went into exile to fight for freedom and perished in that cause and the struggle for national liberation. Even those who are unaffected by the direct loss of loved ones are victims, for the social milieu in which we were placed was tainted with segregation, hatred and a strong sense of contempt, the very ingredients of apartheid,” she argued. “As we look back in time, it is shocking to see how quickly we have come to forget the dynamic opportunity we have. A question that comes to the fore is whether or not national reconciliation can ever be achieved without a process of public disclosure of what atrocities were committed by all the parties. I, too in those days have always wanted to know who exactly it was that murdered my parents. There are even worse situations than mine,” she said. Iivula-Ithana contended she does not agree with those who call for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as was the case in South Africa. “Unfortunately, I do not share their view in respect of this aspect of the healing process. I know that I am not the only one with scars in my mind and on my body. Entire generations are affected. Does this however mean that we cannot learn to forgive without forgetting? Those of us that have wronged others are perhaps more at pains in dealing with our own conscience, when we see those victims of our hurt walking about their business in an independent Namibia today. We have shown the world what a miracle our hearts are, because we have been able to forgive one another for our roles in the past, even though we were the wronged ones,” she said. According to her a TRC would be a costly exercise to administer. “Whether a public hearing or otherwise, one will never satisfy all of those that are hurt, and we cannot place monetary value on our pain and suffering,” she explained. In her view, Namibians should find shelter under the longstanding policy of National Reconciliation, the Namibian way. “We need to exhibit the very same sense of maturity we had at Independence in as much as we speak of 15 years in the life of our young nation. Let the generations to come remember us as having held hands notwithstanding our pain. Should we abandon National Reconciliation, the Namibian way, then we open the gates for claims for restitution by all members of society,” she warned. The Minister suggested a process of exhumation and burial of the discovered human remains in the North to bring closure for the sake of those that lie in those graves.

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