Talking to Professor Peter H. Katjavivi

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Translation of an Interview with Sabrina Addo Dankwas Lorenz that Appeared in Lo’Nam No.ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 3, 2007, (a Monthly German Publication) Namibian Ambassador, Professor Peter Katjavivi, has been representing his country in Germany since September 2006, when he presented his credentials. In this interview with Lo’nam Magazine, Ambassdor Katjavivi covers a wide range of issues from economics to social issues. Excerpt: Q. Did you have any relations with Germany already before becoming Namibia’s Ambassador to the Federal Republic? What are your expectations concerning the outcome of your work? A. Germany is not unknown to me. I was often in Germany, both before and after Namibia won independence. As you know, our country’s independence coincided with the reunification of Germany. Against this background one can say that our two countries not only share a common past far back in history, but also the joy and happiness the year 1989/1990 brought to our peoples. Q. On the occasion of the centenary of the battle at Waterberg in 2004 Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, apologized for the genocide committed by the Germans on Namibians, the Herero. This gave rise to expectations. How do you assess the efforts the German government has made so far to keep the Minister’s promise? A. Yes, on the occasion of the centenary celebrations at Ohamakari in 2004, Mrs Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, did make a vital statement. It was, in fact, the important acknowledgement that the atrocities of German colonialism culminated in a genocide that was committed by the German colonial troops. The Minister used the commemoration at Ohamakari to apologize for the crimes perpetrated on behalf of the German colonial forces. In Namibia, this apology was taken in good faith. Maybe this prompted certain expectations as to the process that would follow. With the German government having declared its goodwill, most Namibians are now waiting for concrete action to follow that would help the wounds of the past to heal. Many a Namibian believes that, to a certain extent, because of the so-called “Special Initiative” the German government is offering to contribute 20 million Euros. Q. Namibia has managed to bring down the spread of AIDS from 22% to 19% in 2004. What measures were taken and what were the difficulties to be overcome in their implementation? A. You are absolutely right in that Namibia has made substantial headway in fighting HIV/AIDS. To achieve this goal, that is to bring the infection rate down, substantial financial means and additional personnel had to be made available. Although the fight against HIV/AIDS has not come to an end yet, we are pleased with this positive development. Q. According to the Gini Index, Namibia is the country with the biggest discrepancies in the distribution of income worldwide. What are the causes and what conclusions are being drawn for the future? A. It is an undeniable fact that when winning independence we in Namibia inherited an unequal distribution of the wealth – a social and economic deficit stemming from our colonial past. The government of independent Namibia has made considerable efforts to redress the situation. In the first ten years following independence, the United Nations (UN) granted Namibia an LDC (least developed countries) status, on the basis of which our country was given preferential conditions by UN missions. But when our gross national product (GNP) rose to 2ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 dollars, we were graded as a medium-income nation, although half of our population must make do on 10% of the average income and the richest 5% earn on average five times the average income. While we have achieved a lot in the 17 years of independence, there remains a lot to be done in order to redress the great social and economic imbalances which mainly affect the black population of Namibia. Beyond that, the Namibian government has committed itself to reducing poverty in the country. We are happy about the additional support our partner countries are giving us in this respect, and here I would like to mention also the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the NGOs in the Federal Republic and the European Union. The relations between Germany and Namibia have, in the course of years, developed into a healthy partnership. Q. What progress has been made with the land reform in Namibia? What (unexpected) challenges did your country find itself up against and how were they coped with? A. The Namibian government has made good progress with its land reform programme. But the high prices demanded by some landowners for the sale of their land are, of course, not helpful in speeding up (the implementation of) the programme. All the same, the government keeps on trying to resettle landless people abiding by the laws of Namibia. Q. China has at all times been present in Africa – financially and politically. Do you share the view being held by the South African President and many Western politicians that China is installing a new kind of colonialism? A. We approach this question from a different angle. Every country has the right to safeguard and pursue its national interests. And China is no exception! The leaders of our country have, for many years, fostered relations with China, both before and after Namibian independence. What we should emphasize is that our relations with China are based on mutual respect and recognition – nothing more and nothing less. Q. What role does Africa play against the background of globalization in the worldwide race between Europe, the United States and China for natural resources? Will this give African countries an advantage to become “more visible”? A. It is an irrefutable fact that Namibia and the other developing nations have as yet nothing to gain from globalization. But this distant dream will continue holding out hope whilst the Doha Development Agenda is in a state of stagnation, because the parties to the negotiations cannot reach agreement on liberalizing the trade with agricultural products and other issues. Q. What do you expect for the next G8 summit for Namibia in the light of the main topics on the agenda, such as Fair Trade and Environmental Protection? A. We hope that the Federal Republic of Germany, as a global player and holding both EU Council and G8 presidency, will take advantage of its special status to make sure that all obligations the international community has entered into before – vis-ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ -vis Africa – will be fulfilled, so as to contribute to the economic, social and political development of the continent. Q. The current debate on the climate change is attracting great attention in the media. People are called upon to stop buying imported food to save our planet. How does the Namibian press view this topic, and what is your opinion? A. Namibia welcomes the debate on the climate change. It is a well-known fact that Namibia, just as the other developing countries, contributes only very little to the enormous emissions worldwide that are harmful to the climate. The rich industrialized countries are largely to blame for that. We hope that for the benefit of all mankind a process of rethinking will set in soonest possible, to be followed by practical steps for changes. Q. What are in your opinion the three most beautiful places in Namibia? A. These are definitely Sossusvlei, Etosha National Park and Okahandja, Namibia’s gravitational centre … and my home town. Q. Your Vision for 2020? A. Is it by chance that you are choosing the year 2020? For I look another 10 years ahead and want to familiarize you with Namibia’s ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚§vision 2030, launched by our former President Dr Sam Nujoma in a Cabinet speech way back in 1998 and presented to the public in June 2004. Vision 2030 identifies topics that are of crucial importance for a favourable development of Namibia, e.g. doing away with inequality; providing for social welfare, peace and political stability; training its work force; expanding institutions and services; macro-economic aspects; demographic development and health; natural resources and environment; exchange of know-how, information and technology. I would wish that we as a young and rising country will, by the year 2030, be as close as possible to these goals, so that our people can look ahead with confidence, enjoy peace and good health and comparative prosperity. Thank you very much for the talk.