Remembering King Iipumbu – Symbol of Nationhood

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Remember 15 August 1932? A long smouldering conflict involving the Kwambi’s King Iipumbu Ya Shilongo, the missionaries of the Finnish Mission, and the Administration of South West Africa came to a head on 15 August 1932. (Kawete Tshapumba Iilonga, member of Uukwambi’s royal family). In August it will be 74 years since the great King of the Kwambi’s was deposed (dethroned) on 15 August 1932. It was early in the morning about six o’clock. A long smouldering conflict involving the Kwambi’s King Iipumbu ya Shilongo, the missionaries of the Finnish Mission and the Administration of South West Africa came to a head. The issues at the stake were Iipumbu’s alleged ill-treatment of his Christian subjects and his refusal to pay a fine of cattle imposed upon him by the colonial administration – also important were Iipumbu’s attempts to control and prevent and protect migrant labour. The main endeavour of the administration was to procure a steady flow of labour. Also, Iipumbu was accused of forcing his young female first to take part in the puberty rites (Ohango efukalo, before they could join Christianity). The disarming of the relatively well armed Owambo thus had priority. Iipumbu was perceived as a threat and obstruction to its aims. Several considerations seem to have restrained the administration’s policy toward Owamboland in general and Iipumbu in particular and there was a delaying of military action. It can be argued that the process of colonial ‘pacification” did not end in Owamboland as popularly assumed, with the defeat of the Ovakwanyama King in 1917, but was only taken one step further with a comparably large military operation against King Iipumbu of the Kwambi on 15 August 1932 and his subsequent deposition. However objectionable and irrational some of Iipumbu’s actions may have been, they have to be understood as clear manifestations of attempted reconstruction of kingly authority and reasserting of endangered independence. He thereby used constant provocation to the imposed authority of administration and obstructed its aims. His realistic estimation of the purposefully demonstrated military potential of the administration was exploitation matched by his behaviour towards the mission, which threatened, through its very nature his personal authority even directly. This is the point where Iipumbu is remembered, celebrated and exploited as a hero. Aided by the Union of South Africa Defence Force which had supplied three Wapiti aircraft and armoured cars manned by well-trained soldiers who later each got a promotion after Iipumbu’s defeat, the imperialists followed their deliberate policy of bloodshed, and Iipumbu’s residence was bombed including several outlying cattle posts and 40,000 head of cattle were totally destroyed. C.N. Manning, Resident Commissioner in Owamboland, summarised the troubles with Iipumbu in 1919 as follows: “He Iipumbu persecuted though without actual violence missionaries, their families and congregation, drove out many of his own people, caused the death of at least three natives, without justification, as they admitted practised witchcraft carried in secret liquor; Iipumbu buys and trades ammunition with Greek and Portuguese traders in Angola. He Iipumbu interfered with a reasonable Government control almost to direct defiance, besides inciting other communities to follow his instructions of defiance.” Iipumbu’s short biography. Iipumbu ya Shilongo shu Uupindi was born 1873 at Onashiku Ukwambi, during the reign of King Nuuyoma we Eelu. His mother Ambondo ya Amunyela was from the royal family. After Nuuyoma’s death on 29-05-1875 Negumbo lya Kandenge Nuuyoma’s brother reigned 1875 -1907 After Negumbo’s death 1907, Iipumbu as a son of Negumbo’s eldest sister ascended to the Uukwambi Throne in 1907, in line with the principles of matrilineal succession. Iipumbu inherited his office from old and therefore, a worn-out and weaker and corrupted Negumbo was just after power and did not care about the people. The reasserting of kingly powers against Negumbo’s council of headmen and corruption, in his first year of political life. Occasional brushes with traders and German colonial government. Iipumbu and the trajectory, his office took place during the first four decades of this century and needs to be contextualised within the wider processes of change brought by mercantile capital and finally, colonialism facilitated by the Finnish reactionary mission. The conflict was resolved with Iipumbu’s deposition and banishment into exile in the Okavango area. The Finnish Mission Administration were supported by the Union Defence Force which supplied three Wapiti aircraft which caused high bloodshed. Iipumbu’s residence was bombed including several outlying cattle posts, and 20 000 head of cattle at Ooneemedhiiya and Oombuga Haahindi were totally destroyed on 15 August 1932 This took place while Iipumbu was away on a mission to Ombandja to buy the machine-gun in order to face the Wapiti. Iipumbu was ambushed and captured a week after the bombing. Trackers sent after him to Ombandja by the native commissioner C.H.L Hahn, manned by a group of Kwanyamas who were on the side of the colonisers promised money and high posts – one well known was Nehemia ya Shovaleka, who also told lies to Iipumbu’s soldiers that Iipumbu was dead while he Iipumbu was still on the way from Ombandja. The time Iipumbu told them that the new generation would revenge on my behalf (Oohinina otaaye keshi mupula peshala lyandje). It must be known to every Namibian and be captured by mind and be remembered that the greatest natural enemy of the Owambo people is the Finnish nation. One must remember one set was made during first of April 1989, in a situation of heightened tension, and Swapo of Namibia had just started the relocation of its Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) when Marti Ahtisaari a Finnish, a Somi) repeated the history of his ancestors of 1932 with his usual partner in arms South Africa’s Defence Force in the context of the process of implementation of Resolution 435 and started the war in the North anew, tainting the evidence collected. Yet matters were more complicated because it is doubted whether Iipumbu’s conduct against his own subjects’ various incidents of torture and killings as well as armed raids into neighbouring communities Iipumbu, forcing them to be his subjects, are recorded and backed by oral evidence can legitimately be summarised under heading ‘resistance: it is true that the maltreatment of people was related by the missionaries and remembered vividly by those subjected to it, very after directed against Christian members, and one may assume at least a form of resistance, since Iipumbu may have attempted to reduce some of the culturally and social alienating influences brought by the mission. The arms, ammunition and liquor trade was certainly carried out to retain some independence and this was also true in his persecution of the missionaries and Christians, yet arms and liquor can also be used to retain the endangered and even reinforce power influence and independence. Still Iipumbu is the fly in the ointment in Owamboland. Thus Iipumbu was celebrated by many as the symbol of Owambo’s resistance and defiance and condemned by fewer others as somebody being of a cruel disposition and despotic nature. What Iipumbu has contributed to the struggle cannot be denied and not even be forgotten as different. But as decisive a factor was the native commissioner C H L Hahn. Vested in him were the powers of the Administration, to which he was accountable – the policy he introduced was the introduction of indirect rule to Owamboland. In a role with regard to the Ovakwanyama (as intelligence officer in the 1917 campaign against Mandume) and the Aandonga, only Uukwambi remained with a strong ruler who actively challenged Hahn’s rule. This would have played a role in the course of action taken by Hahn. In the interviews conducted, this is the sole reason given today by Kwambi’s that Hahn wanted to become unchallenged king in Uukwambi. It is important to know that Iipumbu perceived his actions against the mission in the more general context of anti-colonial struggle. Missionary Arho reports that Iipumbu threatened him with the words: “Do you not know that Mandume killed the white men?” “If I kill you there is no one to ask you from me.” “There is no white man who would protect you! Not Tshongola, not Wenduka, nobody.” “They will accuse you and I do right if I kill you.” (Wenduka refers to Windhoek and means the Administration). Iipumbu surely had a realistic appraisal of his own and suggests that Iipumbu be prepared to fight ground troops, armoured vehicles and aero-planes. It is at this point Iipum-bu is celebrated by all of us as the new symbol of Namibian Nation. Long live the Spirit of Ndili-mani, long live Africa. K. S IIIonga