Tread with Caution

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PARLIAMENT is set to pass a bill on terrorism among other bills during this session. Well and good. The tabling and passing of a Terrorism Act is in order as long as the move enhances internal security and provides mechanisms to deal with foreign threats given the changing circumstances in the world.
It is fine for our Parliament to pass a Terrorism Act as long as it is not big brother telling us to become a paratrooper in her so-called war on terror.

It is okay for our country to enact this law as long as the tabling of this bill is not foreign-induced and influenced for it would be terribly wrong for us to start pandering to the interests of others to the detriment of our own interests, our region and continent.

Above all, the definition of terrorism in this bill will have to be framed so as not to provide for ambiguity or room for loose interpretation. It has to reflect our sovereignty and understanding of history and our own unique circumstances as former freedom fighters and meet international standards and obligations particularly as per UN conventions.

We say this not because we have doubts about the integrity of our Parliament and its members. To the contrary, we are of the firm view that under the right circumstances, our Parliament will rise to the occasion and pass a law that is first Namibian and second international, a law that does not pander to the whims of others.

United States President George W Bush’s infamous ” you are either with us or against us” statement is a stark reminder that terrorism has largely been left to the US to define while other nations must simply implement the war against terrorism.

It is too common for others, the US in particular to equate terrorism with any radical opposition to those who wield world power. Leading countries like the US and some of its European allies have the tendency to define terrorism and label individuals and groups terrorists based on self-interest.

The South West Africa Peoples Organisation (Swapo), the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and other former liberation movements were not so long ago called terrorist organisations by leaders of these countries.

So were leaders like Sam Nujoma, Nelson Mandela and others.

Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher pooh-poohed those fighting for freedom in our sub-continent calling them all sorts of names. They refused to deal with Nujoma or Mandela and instead backed apartheid leaders who oppressed the majority of black people, all in the name of terrorism and self-interest.

This trend is continuing. A case in point is the Hamas movement in Palestine that has been outlawed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union despite having won democratic elections a few years ago.

Recently, the US had the audacity to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, an arm of the country’s security forces as terrorists. The Guantanamo base under the US is today holding people without access to justice on the assumption that they are terrorists. Internally, the US is preoccupied with the secret tapping of conversations and communications between individuals. In the UK, terrorism suspects can now be held longer than usual before they are brought before courts.

The lesson to learn from these practical examples is that legislations on terrorism tend to erode personal freedoms and the rights of citizens. Terrorism legislations inherently provide fertile ground for abuse of power because too much power is ceded to the security establishments and the executive.

Namibia must avoid being carried by the wave. Extra care must be taken lest we become cannon fodder in other people’s wars. Our country must avoid being sucked into the war on terror. Going into war is easy but not exiting.

We just have to look at Iraq.

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