War Vets Willing to Talk

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Committee for the Welfare of Ex-Combatants/War Veterans says while it is prepared to negotiate with the Government on their demands before September 4, it will continue to make these demands until they are met. “The Government must come to the table and tell us we can only afford this much,” said Alex Kamwi, a spokesperson of the committee yesterday after President Hifikepunye Pohamba rejected their demands saying meeting them would decimate the country’s economy. Kamwi refused to comment on the address Pohamba made to the nation on the demands, saying the committee was awaiting a formal meeting with the president where they would be told about Government’s response to the issue. “When we sit down, we can come up with an amicable solution to these resolutions,” he said. A World Bank funded case study on cases of war to peace on demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants in 1996, which includes Namibia, said after discharge, the PLAN ex-combatants received the same benefits (demobilization) packages as the civilian refugees. The report indicates that the returnees also received initial rehabilitation assistance for their short-term needs, including agricultural production packages, shelter construction, and supplementary family support. But Kamwi rejected the claims made in the publication, adding that he knew that ex fighters received N$10 and not packages as indicated in the case study. “Is N$10 a package? No ex-combatants received any packages. We are not fools, we were never given agricultural implements and the said packages,” he added. The ex-fighters, who are still registering members for an association to be formed, plan nationwide demonstrations for September 4 if their demands are not met. The committee will make a statement tomorrow to clarify some issues, Kamwi said. He said some of the resolutions/demands such as the one that calls on the Government to give them fishing quotas was not difficult to implement, considering that giving them “one fishing or mining quota would enable them to earn a monthly income from it”. The committee said it has since 2004 asked that former freedom fighters be recognized for the services they rendered during the struggle for independence between 1966 and 1989. In a letter dated December 16, 2005, committee chairperson Ruusa Malulu sought an audience with former President and Swapo President Sam Nujoma to discuss the issue for January 5 to 11. Kamwi said the committee however received no response and therefore wrote a letter asking to meet with Pohamba to have their matter resolved. A consultative meeting of the ex-combatants held on July 15 at Greenwell Matongo Community Hall passed three resolutions, among them that the president should be allowed one week or more and that if there is no response, the committee should go physically to make inquiries. If no favourable answer is received, they should then demonstrate. They also resolved to form an association, commence with the registration of the ex-combatants and that the committee should see to it that the resolutions are implemented by the Government before November 2006. Kamwi said although the committee acknowledges that the Government has helped them with their problems by among others employing thousands of them in the civil service, there still remains a lot to be done. “Ex-combatants are really suffering. They struggle to make ends meet for those that are employed,” he added.