Ethnicity Can Destroy – Nujoma

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The negative effects of tribalism and ethnicity, if not managed effectively, can destroy the Namibian society and reverse the gains the country has achieved since the attainment of independence. This stern warning yesterday came from the Founding Father of the Nation and Unam Chancellor, Dr Sam Nujoma, when he officially opened this year’s cultural festival at the University of Namibia. A great number of invited guests and students attended the official opening of the festival, which runs until tomorrow under the theme, “Eradicating Tribalism through Cultural Integration”. “As we all know Namibia has undergone a bitter chapter of racial discrimination and apartheid colonialism whereby our people were divided based on tribalism and ethnicity. The evils of racism, ethnicity and tribalism have resulted in ethnic conflicts in various parts of the African continent and elsewhere,” the Founding President said. According to him, in the Namibian context the evils of apartheid, ethnicity and tribalism sowed the seeds of mistrust and suspicion among different communities in the country. “We are proud that our policy of national reconciliation has helped Namibians to overcome fear, hatred, mistrust and suspicion, which characterized our communities in the past. Today racial ethnic and tribal divisions are fast disappearing and Namibians are beginning to embrace each other and work together as a nation, irrespective of colour, race, ethnic group or social status in society,” said Nujoma, who praised efforts for people to live in harmony and enjoy the fruits of unity in diversity. He urged that Namibians should strive to promote unity in diversity at all levels. “Our differences should serve as a unique recipe for strengthening our nation’s building efforts. Each ethnic or social group has a unique contribution to make and reinforce our dream to become a truly strong, united and prosperous society. Culture is a critical factor, which enhances unity, peace and harmony among nations and peoples,” Nujoma said. A nation without culture lacks the dynamism that can enable it to face the future with confidence, he said. “We must enhance cultural revival, promotion and protection. A nation that attaches high value to its respective cultures and traditions will always create strong national identity, pride and self-esteem. Africa has a rich and strong cultural history. There are numerous benefits embedded in our cultures that can be harnessed to the benefit our people,” Nujoma asserted. Nujoma criticized some people and in particular the Namibian youth for not being keen to participate in Namibian cultural events with the excuse that such events are outdated. “Instead they are promoting cultures from other continents, which include social evils such as the abuse of drugs and alcohol and unethical behaviour. I call upon the Namibian youth to take an interest and participate in these cultural preservation activities. As future leaders the youth should promote our cultural heritage in order to forge a strong national cultural identity and foundation upon which future generations will build on,” he said. He also proposed that Africans export their cultural knowledge to other parts of the world. “This can increase recognition of the contributions that Africans have made to the cultural and scientific progress of the world. Namibia is blessed with many accomplished artists. These artists have a role to play in how we perceive one another and our circumstances. Efforts should be made to ensure that artists make a living from their talents and contribute to the national economy,” Nujoma encouraged. He further advised that arts education at Unam be re-directed towards vocational training. “This is needed for students to be prepared for opportunities in popular music performance, textile, home decoration, advertising and recording. The value for film and media in Namibia seems to be growing in importance. It is my hope that it will further create spin-offs for employment creation for artists. It is imperative that we start promoting our indigenous music, dances and other cultural performances so that we can enhance cultural awareness, especially among the youth,” he said. He concluded by pointing out that the Namibian society requires and expects Unam and all other educational institutions to do more than just developing students’ intellectually. “The diversity of Namibia’s cultures makes us special and unique and should rather contribute to our unity than to work against it. Universities are universal in nature and character and as such ideal for social and cultural integration. The challenge to Unam is to create an enabling and conducive environment for socio-cultural integration to take root,” said Unam’s acting vice-Chancellor, Dr Louis Mostert at the same occasion.