Namibia an oasis of peace and stability in a turbulent Africa

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By Dr Vincent M Mwange

AFRICA is more peaceful today than it had been in decades. An analysis done in 2012 in the journal ‘Africa Affairs’ showed that conflicts on the continent have decreased in number, size and brutality since the early 1990s.

Nevertheless, there is still a concern on the prevailing peace and security situation on the continent. Conflicts and wars on the continent have created insecurity and a volatile political environment in some African countries. For example, the on-going mayhem in the northern parts of Nigeria, where Boko Haram gunmen continue to massacre innocent villagers, is a serious security threat to that country and Africa as a whole.

The lives of millions of Africans and the continent’s rapid growing economies continue to be threatened by instability caused by wars and conflicts. The conflict areas on the continent are mostly found in the horn of Africa and stretch across the Sahel into West Africa.
In contrast, Namibia, located in the south-western Africa, is one of the countries on the continent that has effectively confronted and overcome the challenges that cause widespread conflict, and political and socio-economic instability.
This article scans the following indicators that might have contributed to the prevailing peace and security situation in Namibia.

Leadership
Since Namibia’s independence in 1990, the Swapo Party, a former liberation movement, rules the country. The Namibian government generally has done exceptionally well. It is the merit of Sam Nujoma, the first president, Swapo leader and “Father of the Nation”, who steered the young country onto a peaceful, democratic and moderate political course, which brought Namibia continuous economic growth, political inclusiveness and the reconciliation of the races. The government put substantial amounts of money into infrastructure of the country and the education of its people. As a result, Namibia can be proud of the highest literacy rate (85%) in Africa.

Politics and Government
Politically, Namibia is a secular presidential representative democracy with a multi-party system. Democracy can only be a reality if there are strong and functional political parties. Political parties [play] an important role in the democratic politics that drive the country. To this end, the Namibian Government funds political parties that are represented in parliament, according to the share of votes each party receives in the elections.

What is significant in the Namibian setting is the willingness by political parties to work together in the national interest despite differences. This has considerably contributed to the democracy and uninterrupted political stability Namibia has continued to enjoy for over two decades.

Namibia has a conventional separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judiciary bodies. The government exercises executive power. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. These are important ingredients for democratic governance.

Constitution
Namibia’s democratic Constitution gives the citizens wide-ranging civil rights and the equality of all Namibians before the law. Additionally, freedom of speech, religion, assembly and association, protection of privacy and personal property, freedom and physical integrity are legally enshrined.

Policy of National Reconciliation
Tolerance and the well-managed policy of national reconciliation played a central role in the prevailing peace and stability in Namibia. The policy of national reconciliation offered better opportunities for healing and national integration. Namibians have managed to reconcile after a dark history of colonialism and liberation struggle that had fractured the people of the country.

The underlying strength of reconciliation, as against other conflict handling mechanisms such as force or mediation, is that it is a voluntary initiative of the conflicting parties to acknowledge their responsibility.

Namibians fought on both sides of the struggle and they needed to reconcile so that the country could move forward. The People’s Liberation Army of Namibia, Swapo’s former military wing, fought against the Southwest African Territorial Force, a surrogate armed force of the apartheid South African Defence Force that was mainly comprised of Namibians.

The former adversaries integrated with ease into the new Namibian Defence Force, strengthening the process of national reconciliation. We could argue that the policy successfully served as a “vehicle and mechanism” to reduce the danger of frustrated integrated ex-fighters from using military means to dislocate the post-conflict nation-building efforts.

Furthermore, Namibia’s policy of national reconciliation was intended for the country to come to terms with its violent and disparaging past in which thousands lost their lives, were traumatised by imposed violence, a far-reaching loss of land, dignity and self-respect.
Therefore, the implementation of the policy of national reconciliation at independence in 1990 saved Namibia from a possible bloody war of vengeance. Founding President Sam Nujoma promoted the policy with determination and our people embraced it wholeheartedly.

Churches played a vital role in the process.
The aim of such interaction is that, in the final analysis, each of the parties acknowledges and accepts his or her responsibility and out of such recognition seeks ways to redress the injury that has been inflicted on the adversary, to refrain from further damage, and to construct new positive relationships.

Namibians, irrespective of colour, race or creed are united and work together for the common good and mutual benefit of all citizens. With no doubt, the reconciliation policy has helped Namibians to embrace each other and move forward as one people instead of seeking revenge for the past injustices committed.
It is my humble submission to conclude that Namibia’s political system and the country’s political leadership and management style provided a recipe for the country’s peace and stability success.

*Dr Vincent M Mwange works for the Ministry of Defence and writes in his private capacity as a Namibian citizen.

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