Namibia has a longstanding international reputation for supporting human rights and the sovereign independence of States.
This is evident in the continuous support we have provided towards the State of Palestine and their right to self-determination and international recognition as a State. Our relationship with Israel has been overwrought even before we became an independent State.
The Israeli regime before 1990 showed clear backing for the South African apartheid regime. There were even accusations in the past that the regime during that time wanted to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa.
It’s clear that our ties remain sturdy with countries that have supported us during the struggle against apartheid. These ties can even be connected to the Gulf States and Arab countries, which is the secondary focus of this article.
When we look at relations Namibia shares with Gulf States and Arab nations, the most prominent relationship we have is with Egypt. An opinion article by Carl Pasat in The Namibian last year titled: “Namibia Needs Ties with the Middle East”, examines past relations between Egypt and Namibia, noting some fresh developments in domestic politics since the Egyptian uprising, which formed part of the Arab Spring.
The new leadership in Egypt does not seem to have the same domestic and foreign policy as that of past regimes and that is evident from the decisions made in recent times. As asserted by Pasat, Egypt was and is still considered one of our only allies in the region. However, recent developments may prove that there might be a shift in our policy towards Egypt.
On Thursday November 29, 2015 the United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations tabled a draft resolution to appoint six countries on a Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), along with 42 co-sponsors.
This list included Israel, El Salvador, Oman, Qatar, Sri Lanka, and UAE. Under normal circumstances the General Assembly would simply allow such resolution to pass through by consensus, but a Syrian diplomat pushed for a vote, because they didn’t support Israel joining this committee.
However, they did not have any issue with other States, who were proposed to join the committee on a full time basis. This was evident from the fact that Syria did not vote against the resolution.
The highlight, however, was when it came down to the vote with 117 UN member states voting for the resolution, 21 member states abstaining. Namibia was the only country that voted against it.
At the risk of making themselves vulnerable to foreign diplomatic tensions – not only with longtime ally of Israel, the United States of America, but also other Arab and Gulf States who were on the list – Namibia, however, showed no strain of compromise on its policy towards Israel.
Pro-Palestinian supporters took to social media to praise this geo-politically small African State of 2.3 million, who stood in defiance, with the majority including world super-powers and stood against Israel and perchance a silent remonstration in solidarity with Palestine, whose citizens are currently in a face-off with the Israeli forces in the occupied regions.
The brazen foreign policy stance by Namibia is nothing short of inspiring to many countries across Africa who have sold out their own to protect relations with the world super-powers.
Namibia remains at the prime of her foreign policy and these indicators came when President Putin as Head of State of a world power sent a personal message to newly elected President Hage Geingob, compared to many other super-powers e.g. the United States of America, who communicated through their Foreign Secretary – known as the Secretary of State – John Kerry. This sends a direct message as to who may be more interested in developing relations.
It’s a good time to be a Namibian in the eyes of the world. We’re standing our ground, promoting human rights and freedom within our foreign policy. This is of course isolated in relation to countries such as China and North Korea.
We are still protected partially by our rich grounds of natural resources, such as uranium, in which many have shown an interest in years past. Almost all global powers want to maintain a good relationship as a result of our rich mineral grounds.
Towards concluding we must consistently stand our ground in the international community, while maintaining the “friend of the enemies” policy we have been playing over the years by founding alliances with neither eastern nor western powers.
This international standing has safeguarded that we do not get embroiled in global issues that have no benefit to us.
We ought to be appreciative towards those who enshrined our neutrality within the Constitution, as depicted in Article 96 (a), which stipulates that the Republic of Namibia “adopts and maintains a policy of non-alignment”.
This heeds great benefits that will secure our survival in the long run within the international arena. The question remains: what are the benefits or cost of voting against such an internationally significant resolution?
The answer remains simple and clear: None. We’re simply reiterating our commitment to stand by our decision to promote peace and independence for the people of Palestine.
* Shaandre Finnies is Deputy Speaker of the Namibian Children’s Parliament.