Peter Ekandjo: The Jungle Fighter – Arrival in the Land of the Brave

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When the plane landed, I could see uniformed members of the task force standing around the airport. I immediately told myself that the security police members were there to identify those that they were looking for, including me.
While disembarking from the aircraft, I noticed hordes of people wearing SWAPO colours and waving the party’s flag. Insecurity and fears immediately disappeared, when some of the leaders came towards the aircraft to welcome us and probably assure us that the security situation was under control.

From the aircraft, we went into the airport building to collect our luggage before boarding buses waiting for us in the parking area. As we left the building, we could hear people singing SWAPO songs loudly and clearly, for everyone who cared to listen.

Anxiety built up, as we heard the ululations of SWAPO supporters dancing and singing with the party flag raised high, yet another indication that everything seemed under control.

The security police members’ watchful eyes, however, evoked fears and irritated our feelings to the extent that we questioned the rationale behind the SWAPO leadership’s decision to sign the ceasefire agreement with the apartheid government.

As we came closer to the singing SWAPO supporters, some of them swarmed us, praising us for being persistent in the fight against the brutal colonial forces in Namibia. We were welcomed like real victors and heroes of the liberation struggle, through the fight was not yet over, as we were still to embark on rigorous campaigns for the November 1989 general election.

After the welcoming and praises, buses took us to a reception centre in Windhoek. The buses took us to the Döbra reception centre where administrators received us. They registered us and gave us basic essentials, such as pots, blankets, spoons, cups and plates for personal use.

Later, the SWAPO comrades took us to another place for a detailed briefing on the then prevailing security and political situation in the country. We were cautioned to take care of our own security and avoid being manipulated by opportunists, who were out there misleading the public about SWAPO.

The comrades had also warned us to guard against socialising at drinking places and avoid moving around at night to avoid attacks by anti-SWAPO forces.

It was cold when we arrived at Döbra on July 28, 1989, though for some of us who had just arrived from Europe, the weather was not so harsh. However, the living conditions at the centre were not as good as where we were coming from.

The camp administrator urged us üto contact family members, as we only had seven days to stay in the centre. The question, which preoccupied our minds, was how we would contact people some of whom were in the far north of the country.

We neither had their telephone numbers nor knew their whereabouts then, thus the request from the centre administrators had actually complicated matters for some of us. I ignored the request, as I was not prepared to travel to my village for fear Du Plessis and Koevoet members from Ongwediva and Oshakati camps would visit me at night.
However, on the third day at the centre my brother Justus Ekandjo, who was working in Windhoek and some people from our village came to visit me. It was a very joyous occasion for the visitors and me, as we were meeting after over 12 years since I went into exile in 1977. We were all overcome by that unification.

I told them to collect me after four hours. They arrived at around 09h00 but had to wait because I had been told to wait for someone from the SWAPO directorate of elections in Windhoek. The comrades from the party office only arrived at around 11h30.

They were there to tell us to report to the office the following day, on 5 August 1989 in the morning. We left by car for Wanaheda location of Katutura where my brother was renting a room.
There my brother’s friends and people from neighbouring villages in the former Ovamboland came in big numbers to meet me. We chatted, laughed and drank beer until I could take no more.

The following morning I went to the SWAPO office as requested. There I met Cde Festus Shikongo and others who told us that I would be deployed to the southern part of the country, where other comrades were busy campaigning for election.

The comrades said since our group had just arrived from leadership training in the GDP, we would be divided into groups to participate in the election campaigns across the country. I was told that I would join other comrades at Luderitz election campaign headquarters to help Cde Ida Jimmy, who was the head of the office in the town.
We were to undertake intensive election campaigns in that area so that the masses could vote for the Movement. We were told to wait for transport to take us to Lüderitz.

I was in Windhoek until the second week of August 1989 when I decided to visit my parents and all the loved ones before I went on a hectic political campaign trail for the November 1989 general election.
This was my first visit to my village since I returned from exile. I arrived at my parents’ homestead at Omatando No 2 on a Sunday afternoon. Tate Jacob, who was a businessperson at Ongwediva and close friend of my elder brother, Justus, took me to my parents’ homestead.

Stepping into my parents’ homestead was unquestionably the happiest moment of my life. On arrival, my father who received me took me straight to the olupale (gathering place) in the middle of the homestead where important guests were taken and formally received.

It was a homecoming of an accomplished freedom fighter, who never dreamt of returning to the same village due to the nature of war he was involved in, a jungle fighter and a lone clandestine operative, who could have easily been one of the casualties of the prolonged war of national liberation.

Again, thanks to Almighty God, I was able to witness the burial of the brutal apartheid system and the birth of a democratic State, for which so many liberation heroes sacrificed their lives.

This was the home where I had lived since I was born in 1959 and only left when I went into exile in Angola where I lived for over 12 years fighting for the liberation of our motherland from the yoke of the apartheid regime.
On hearing of my arrival, neighbours streamed to my parents’ homestead to welcome me and enquire after their sons and daughters who went into exile, but had not yet arrived.

This type of unification was going on almost everywhere across the country, as people welcomed their loved ones from exile. Some families were not fortunate to receive their exiled loved ones, as some of them had sacrificed their precious lives during the prolonged and bitter struggle for nationhood.

Many of my village boys and girls and others from neighbouring villages had paid the highest price of sacrificing their lives in order to ensure that the colonised motherland and its people, as well as the natural resources were liberated from the yoke of colonialism and plunder by foreign powers respectively.

Some of the comrades from Omatando village and other neighbouring villages, who sacrificed their lives fighting for the liberation of the Land of the Brave, include Shonena Amukwaya Weyulu – Omatando, Angula Negumbo – Omayanga, Filemon Tobias Ashipala – Omatando; Ignatius Nangolo (captain) – Omatando, Thadeus Amundjela Ashipala – Omatando, Ms Shimooli – Omatando, Shekufewa Tobias Ashipala – Omatando, Kaboy Mwandingi – Omusheshe, Richard Taulinge Andima Kalume – Omayanga, Peter Amutenya Kaundondokwa – Omusheshe and others.

These are some of the few unsung heroes, whose blood watered our freedom. These freedom fighters died fighting for the liberation of our motherland. May their souls rest in eternal peace wherever they were laid to rest across the Land of the Brave and Angola! We salute them for their unselfishness and devotion to the just cause.

When I went into exile in 1977, the village was surrounded by thick bushes and flourishing vegetation. However, as I drove from Ongwediva to our village in Mr Jacob’s car, I was alarmed to see that people who cared little about nature had turned the area, which was known for its beautiful vegetation, into a semi-desert.

Mr Jacob dropped me off near the entrance of my parents’ homestead, but to my surprise, I found the homestead in a sorry state as age had caught up with my father that he could no longer maintain it like before.

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