Herero Chiefs Appeal to the UN

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By Kuvee Kangueehi WINDHOEK Forty-seven Herero chiefs who have not been recognised by the Namibian government have sent a petition to the United Nations requesting the world body to intervene in the matter. In a letter written to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the chiefs claim that they shall no longer tolerate their perpetual marginalisation by the Swapo government. “For the last sixteen years, we have not seen any development in our traditional areas but all the development goes to the proverbial north”. The letter, which has been written under the auspices of Otjikaoko Traditional Authority, claims that the majority of Herero traditional leaders have not yet been recognised in accordance with the Traditional Authority Act 17 of 1995 as amended in 2000. “The Swapo Government of the Republic of Namibia is playing a political ball game with the Herero traditional leadership and we never anticipated that this day will dawn in the independent Republic of Namibia sixteen years after independence, but the Swapo Government has compelled us to take this unprecedented step”. Chief John Tjikuua, who briefed the media about the petition, said the chiefs have tried all avenues possible in the country to address the matter, but the government has turned a blind eye to their plea. Tjikuua claims that despite a court order by the Namibian High Court for the government to look into the matter nothing has been done. He added that they had many dialogues with the different ministers who had the portfolio of local government but they were not successful. “The government continues to tell us that they will only recognize the five chiefs from the five royal houses despite the fact that we are traditional authorities on our own”. Tjikuua also expressed unhappiness, saying that he was recognized by the South African colonial regime but not by the new government. In the letter, the chiefs further noted that the Herero people were among those indigenous inhabitants of Namibia upon whom the imperialist zeal of German colonialism in the early decades took a particularly cruel toll. “Had it not been for those events, the Herero people would today be as prominent in numbers in the public life of Namibia as they undoubtedly are by the weight of their cultural and political inputs in the public life”. The chiefs also appealed to the UN, the midwife of Namibia’s independence, as well as the five members of the western contact group – the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Canada – to look into the matter. “We do not want to see refugee camps one day in parts of Namibia, because a human beings can be marginalised for a certain period of time until they say ‘enough is enough’. It is imperative that something is done before we cross that bridge”. The chiefs warned that the perpetual marginalisation of minority groups has led to uprisings witnessed in Dafur, the Niger Delta and Somalia and hoped that Namibia will not be the next conflict area. The Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing, John Pandeni, said that he has not seen the petition and thus could not comment on the issue.