Peter Ekandjo: The Jungle Fighter…. Leaving for training in the Soviet Union

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WHILE I was in Namibia in 1983 I received instructions to report to the detachment headquarters in Angola at Okatunhu about 80 kilometres from the border between Namibia and Angola border. Although I was not told why I should report there, for me it did not matter much, as it was common practice in the ranks of PLAN that when a combatant was summoned by the high authority, there was little chance he/she would know why he/she was being called.

Despite having known about this unwritten norm, I could not help but wonder why I was called to the headquarters.

This was the time when the 10 orders were being implemented. Of course, I knew that I did not do anything wrong that could land me in trouble, but anything was possible at that time.

I maintained my confidence, as I knew that I could only be summoned to headquarters for something that would advance the cause of the liberation struggle.

Upon arrival at the detachment headquarters, I was told to report to the regional headquarters. I spent two days recovering from exhaustion before I could proceed to the regional headquarters as ordered.

When we left for the headquarters, I was given three comrades to escort me since the regional headquarters was a distance from our detachment headquarters. It took us two days to get to the regional headquarters at Etalelomulavi.

By that time, the headquarters was ever on the move due to repeated enemy air attacks. The enemy had intensified aerial attacks on PLAN rear bases across the Cunene Province, forcing the headquarters to be moved from time to time.

When I arrived at the headquarters, the then Chief of Reconnaissance, Cde Namukokola, told me that I was recalled to the headquarters so that I could be sent for training outside Angola.

He was not specific as to where outside Angola and what kind of training I would get.

I was not impressed by the news. As far as I was concerned, I did not need further training on anything that had to do with fighting the enemy. By that time, I was operating inside the country where I had already fought many battles successfully, therefore I did not need to go through training again. Anyway, that is what I thought forgetting that training was ongoing, especially if one needed to perfect one’s skills. Nevertheless, an order had been given, hence, as a disciplined fighter I had to comply with such order.

I stayed in the headquarters for three weeks before I was taken again directly to the Commanding Headquarters’ transit camp north of Cassinga township. A certain Cde Akulyembwa commanded the transit camp.

I stayed for about a month without being properly briefed on why I was there until I complained. Later on, someone whom I do not know by name, came to officially inform me that I was there actually waiting to be taken to Luanda as I would be sent to school in a country that he did not know by then.

However, speculation was that I would go to either the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia for military training. I stayed in the transit camp until September 1983 when I was again taken, together with other comrades, to Ondongo for a military rehearsal.

Ondongo is situated on the Cassinga-Zamba road, but we camped deep in the bush. We found over 3 000 fighters from many PLAN fighting units assembled there.

The entire camp was under the command of Cde Ruben Danger Ashipala known as the then commander of the special unit, Typhoon. The whole exercise was aimed at refreshing combatants on new fighting tactics, boosting their morale and eventually preparing them for the rainy season when the attacks on enemy forces would be intensified.

I was not placed in any specific unit, so I had to join any unit whenever we had practical exercises. During the exercises, we were taken through rigorous training mainly practising how to attack enemy bases both during the day and at night, walking long distances, which involved climbing mountainous areas and crossing rough terrain carrying heavy loads of armaments and so on. The rehearsal took about three months.

After we finished with the exercises, I was again taken to Omugulugwombashe transit camp near Lubango in November 1983. Again when I arrived there with dozens of other comrades, I had to stay there for a full week before I was told why I was there.

Someone from the PLAN Provincial Headquarters came to inform me that I was on my way to Luanda en route to the Soviet Union for further training. He further told me to be ready for departure, warning that I should not leave the transit camp before knowing where I was going so that should my services be needed, people would know where to find me.

After two weeks in the camp, someone instructed me to collect my belongings and be ready to board a truck, which was parked opposite the transit camp office. Over 15 of us were supposed to board the truck to an unknown destination. From the transit camp, we went straight to the airport in Lubango where we boarded the cargo aircraft belonging to the Cuban contingent.

That was my first time to board a plane, hence, I was a bit apprehensive. I had no prior experience of how it felt to be in an aeroplane. We found the aeroplane almost full of Cuban soldiers who were also on their way to Luanda. The cargo aircraft had no comfort, as seats were placed against the sideboard where belts were mounted.

• The book is available at the Book Den near Polytechnic of Namibia in Windhoek, Etunda filling station in Otavi, Omuthiya filling station, Okapana filling station in Ondangwa, Highway filling station (Selector) Ongwediva, Spar Shop Ongwediva, Book of Namibia in Ondangwa, Oshakati and Outapi, Hosea Kutako International Airport and at Bush War Publication in Durban South Africa.

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