Aminuis: The Danger Lights Were Flickering

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro I saw it coming sooner or later. And I am sure that many must have also seen it coming. The only strange thing is that the Government never seemed to see it coming. Or rather it has been ignoring it for some reasons. Eventually, a young man had to pay the highest price, giving his life because of the authority’s dilly-dallying and indecision. I am referring to what happened over the weekend in the Aminuis Constituency. Two Ovaherero groups clashed over the territory’s traditional governance. The blame for what happened lies squarely on the shoulder of the Government, and the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development. The Government’s approach in the first place in the recognition of traditional leaders appears twisted, skewed, ill-thought and half- baked. The Ministry in turn seems to lack foresight and commitment and political sensitivity. Simply, the Ministry seems to be failing dismally in overhauling the bad environment created by the Government’s approach. Rather than fostering tribal harmony, it seems to be festering tribal strife, hostility and conflict. The end result is what we are seeing today in Aminuis. The Ministry seems, whether by Machiavellian design or by sheer lack of wisdom and vision, to have abdicated the recognition of some traditional leaders who may presumably not be from royal blood or politically correct, to the Council for Traditional Leaders for its presumed advice. This has in turn further been procrastinating matters of recognition. Whatever the political agenda of the Government, it has been overlooking one important aspect. That is how important traditional leaders are to communities and how communities may at one point or the other react to the continued marginalisation, real or perceived. Not that these communities clamour so much for the official recognition of their leaders. No! All they want is for the Government to desist from continuing to impose, or to be perceived to be imposing leaders on them. And this is the strong message that is coming from the incident in the Aminuis Constituency. The Aminuis community is not prepared to have traditional leaders imposed on them. Period! One wonders how many similar incidents the Government would like to see before the message is home. A similar situation has been edging in the Omatako Constituency in the Ovitoto communal area where the Kambazembi Traditional Authority appointed a councillor that seems to have the approval of the Government. Meanwhile, the traditional authority for the area that by the sheer number of people under its jurisdiction may be the legitimate authority, has to wait in eternity for recognition. By some unknown divine guidance, the people of Ovitoto have so far been dealing with this matter in a mature and civilised manner. However, there may be a limit to such maturity and civility if the recognition of their traditional authority continues to be held hostage to some bureaucratic inexplicabilities. A similar situation was avoided between the Aandonga Traditional Authority and the Ovakwanyama Traditional Authority over the instalment of an Aandonga councillor in what the Aakwanyama believe to be their area of traditional jurisdiction. President-elect then Hifikepunye Pohamba prevailed over the Aandonga King Kauluma Elifas not to go ahead with the installation ceremony. This is a similar situation as the one unfolding in Aminuis except that the two groups in the Aandonga/Aakwanyama dispute have both been claiming legitimate jurisdiction over the disputed area. This is not the case with the Aminuis matter with the Councillor to be installed being from a traditional authority with jurisdiction over another area. The only perception among some communities out there is that Government, if not the Ministry, is an accomplice in the infiltration and imposition of some traditional leaders of its own choice over communities. The status, authority and mandate of these leaders vis-ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ -vis the resident communities remain at best ambiguous and at worst undefined. To a greater extent, of course without overlooking the political undertones and overtones underpinning the appointment of traditional leaders, much has to do with lack of understanding, especially among the communities as to the essence of these leaders to them and their communities in the face of the marginalisation of their own leaders. Out there, we have communities who are not only at a loss why they continue to be denied leaders of their choice but also with pent-up bitterness, frustrations and anger. Thus, such symbolic showmanship of officialdom like hoisting flags in their backyard at the expense of them and their leaders is not helping the situation. It must be clear that nothing gives anyone in this country any right or freedom to stand in the way of a legal or legitimate action by one or the other community to validate their lawful existence and the propagation thereof. This is what the Maharero Traditional Authority has been trying to do in the Aminuis Constituency. However, such a legitimisation process needs more clarity, sensitivity, political maturity and foresight and administrative foresight, efficacy and non-partisanship than has been hitherto been the case. I am sure all what the Aminuis community are asking for is for the authority of Councillor Ewald Kazongominja to be defined as far as the Aminuis community is concerned. Is he a councillor with only authority over the Maharero subjects who are in the Aminuis traditional jurisdiction, or does his authority also extend to the whole community of Aminuis who are the subjects of Chief David Kavari? If Councillor Kazongominja’s authority is to extend to the subjects of Chief Kavari, as much as he is not recognised yet, are we not thereby setting a bad precedent of a councillor from another jurisdiction having authority over the subjects of a Chief in another jurisdiction? The Ovambanderu Traditional Authority whose traditional seat is in the Epukiro Constituency, equally has a councillor in the Aminuis Constituency but his authority is only confined to the Ovambanderu in Aminuis. Equally to look at another similar case in the Kunene Region, the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority also have a councillor there but his authority does not extend to the subjects of the host traditional leaders. Any approach that does not take cognisance of the authority of legitimate leaders in any jurisdiction, whether they are officially recognised by the Government or not, is a sure recipe for tribal wars. We need look no further than Aminuis. One marvels at the sudden theatrical antics at crisis management that the Government is exhibiting in the face of the Aminuis flare-up. The bottom line and sum total of the latest episode is none other than the old-age non- recognition of some leaders of the Ovaherero community. Secondly, it is underpinned by the continued symbolic show of officialdom by some recognised traditional leaders, of course with the passive spectatorship of the Government, through the theatre of hoisting flags in what could be termed foreign traditional territories. As much as the Namibian Constitution guarantees any one or any community to do whatever within the limits of the law or live wherever it chooses, it takes more than just constitutional dictates. Political/tribal sensitivity and ingenuity also demand that we pay due regard to current streams, especially given the political and tribal fluidity of some issues as has just been shown by the Aminuis standoff. The writing is on the wall for all and sundry to see that traditional matters, in particular the issue of the recognition of traditional leaders, can be as explosive as it could. Ignoring and dealing with it purely according to our political whims and agendas may be at our own peril. As much as sensitive the matter of recognition may be to them, one would wish the leaders of the communities currently involved in the Aminuis boil-over to look beyond the matter at its real motivation. Simply they must not allow the Government’s ineptitude, if one can term it that, to divide them against one another. The misdirection of anger and bitterness as is currently being seen in the destruction of property is regrettable and can by no means provide a lasting solution. The battle of the Aminuis community for the recognition of their traditional leaders has not been lost. Thus, the community must not allow itself to be distracted and lose focus but must continue to engage the Government on the matter. Meanwhile, they should not allow unruly elements to exploit the situation by misdirecting their anger and bitterness at the property of fellow citizens who may just be invoking their rights, as mistaken, ill-informed and ill-advised this invocation may at times be. Most regrettably the underhand of some have-been politicians, current bankrupt politicians and degenerate community leaders lurks in an unholy alliance behind what would otherwise be a genuine desire by a leader to be of use to his community. Lastly, it pains one that the leaders of the two groups are unable to come to terms. How do they expect their subjects to respect their authorities if they cannot provide leadership in crucial matters like these?