Tito Niishitya – a former fighter of the then Swapo military wing the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) – has turned a former South African army base at Outapi into a war museum.
“A place like this is good for national reconciliation. It is also good for the rehabilitation of some of us who were involved in the war – on both sides. The more we talk about it, the more we feel comfortable and forget about revenge,” said Niishitya.
Prior to the once dreaded occupational base being turned into the Outapi War Museum three years ago, the place was frequented by goats and donkeys from the surrounding area.
“The structure was abandoned and left to deteriorate because it belonged to the enemy. But I believed that we would not be doing justice to our children – they need to know their country’s history. That is what motivated me to revive this place,” elaborated the ex-PLAN fighter.
The museum not only contains exhibits from the Namibian war of liberation but from wars of other African countries as well. The objects include ammunition, uniforms and T-shirts.
Although it has not yet been officially opened many people, mainly adults, have started to visit the museum. Niishitya urged the youth to start visiting the place to learn more about the past.
Niishitya said he from time to time sat in one room with former PLAN cadres as well as former Koevoet and SWATF soldiers, at the museum, to reminisce about their colonial wartime experiences.
“When the former members of Koevoet come here their tears start flowing. They are traumatised,” he said.
The museum is a good research venue for learners, scholars and tourists, and a place of rehabilitation for Niishitya and his fellows.
According to him he has ventured into a deal with former South African army soldier Johannes Liebenberg, who was a cameraman then.
Liebenberg provides the museum with pictures. He has also written a book on the war, which is available at the museum.
Briefly talking about his personal background, Niishitya said he joined the war of liberation at a very young age, when he went into exile between 1979 and 1980.
He was only 17 when he underwent military training and served many years at the front, assigned to the intelligence unit of PLAN.
“I spent my time on the frontline, seeing my friends perishing. I worked in the intelligence unit, taking information to my commanders. In 1986 I was removed from the frontline to work with the founding president, Dr Sam Nujoma. When he returned home in 1989, we brought him here,” he said.
After independence Niishitya worked at State House. He was sent to Portugal to study linguistics and African languages.
After completing the course he went back to State House where he worked until Nujoma retired.
“A museum is not a money-making business, which is why we have financial challenges. We therefore urge donors to come on board and assist. Something like this is needed because we need to liberate ourselves through history. We were taught about Jan van Riebeeck, Adolf L üderitz and others. But we need to teach our children about the true history of Namibia, and Africa at large, because our education system is not doing justice to either,” says Niishitya who is also a hardcore Pan-Africanist.