The UN General Assembly is seen by many – especially the oppressed – as an appropriate amphitheatre for global dialogue, but is sometimes ridiculed as an ineffectual talking shop.
Namibia, emerging in recent years as a shining example of universally-hailed principles of democracy as well as a model of peace and stability, is well represented at the gathering that starts today in New York, USA.
Despite recognition of our positive traits as a new nation, Namibia’s voice is often missing in global – or even continental – discourse.
Countries with shameful track records in human rights, resource management and plunder, often steal the limelight ahead of our own country, something that we as a nation must address as a matter of urgency.
Like the more than 140 world leaders gathering in Manhattan, President Hage Geingob too will be accorded 15 minutes to speak on behalf of all Namibians, on any topic of his choosing.
For many years now, the speeches delivered by our leaders at the UN General Assembly have never made headlines beyond the borders of our country – perhaps a sign of ignorance, if reluctance, by the international media about the role this country can play in global affairs.
We are not a nation of saints, but our own standing in the league of democratic and peaceful nations should naturally draw the attention of the world when we take to the podium.
Despite the glaring gaps between the poor and the wealthy in our country, Namibia remains one of the few countries in the world with commendable social safety nets, such as monthly monetary grants for the elderly, the disabled and the orphaned.
Our human rights record as a country, coupled with the progress made on gender equality, do not get the global attention they truly deserve.
Perhaps as a country we did not highlight our achievements enough at relevant platforms. On that score, we cannot point fingers at outsiders for not singing our praises or stopping the noise when we are talking. But there is clearly selectivity on the global arena, such that nations that are doing relatively well, especially in Africa, are never afforded the credit and publicity they deserve.
A visit to the websites of the world’s leading broadcasting networks would always alert one to the stories of war, hunger, poverty and abuse of power by African states. No mention is usually made about nations that have made progress on issues that the United Nations itself expects its members to succeed at. Or why is it, for example, that Namibia’s involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), or the low-key Caprivi attack of 1999, which lasted for about 30 minutes, made more headlines than the gender parity achievements made in Namibia over the last few years?
President Geingob, as leader of one of the countries hailed as Africa’s success stories, must be listened to when he speaks in New York today. How can he not be listened to when the country he leads has repeatedly been rated as Africa’s best in terms of media freedom, among a plethora of achievements?
The world must pause and ask, who are these geniuses and what are they doing differently from their contemporaries? The lessons the world can learn from Namibia to better itself are plenty.
We have seen African countries, whose main export is groundnuts, making more headlines globally, with international media castigating the manner in which such countries are governed.
Ignoring Namibia’s presence at such events is a travesty in itself. Those who have ears will listen and learn lessons that they can replicate at home to better the lives of their own citizens.
In the final analysis, Namibia surely has a long way to go to get its entire house in order. Nobody is denying the levels of poverty, inequality, nepotism and cronyism in our country. But Namibia has a good story to tell too. It is time the leaders of the world sit up and listen.