President Hage Geingob is expected this morning to set the tone on the country’s foreign policy – which is perceived as vague – as he shifts his attention to diplomacy after mapping out his domestic developmental direction.
With his Harambee Prosperity Plan in a rollout stage, Geingob is seemingly spreading his wings to foreign policy issues, specifically how the country will deal with other nations on issues of both diplomacy and economic bilateral ties.
The president had lately been drumming up the Pan-African agenda at international platforms, and recently drew a strong comparison between foreign aid that African countries receive compared to illicit outflows of African resources to some donor countries.
Since becoming president last year, Geingob has mostly focused on domestic affairs, but he now looks to set a direction of how the country will deal with its neighbours and other nations.
Namibia follows a largely independent foreign policy, with strong affiliation with states that aided the independence struggle, including Libya and Cuba.
Amid a recent saga involving Namibia’s relations with North Korea, Geingob hammered home the East Asian country’s assistance to Namibia’s liberation struggle as the anchor of existing relations.
However, Geingob is expected to outline a vision that no longer emphasises liberation struggle ties as some sort of prerequisite for diplomatic ties, and looks more towards a policy that has significant economic spin-offs.
Namibia’s most pressing foreign policy issue during the first five years of independence was managing relations with South Africa, its former colonial master. Apartheid South Africa had regularly used its economic and political clout to destabilize its neighbours, particularly those who showed strong opposition to its apartheid system.
The Namibian government worked for the 1 March 1994 handover of Walvis Bay (Namibia’s main deep-water port), over which South Africa had kept control. This significantly freed the country from South Africa’s economic stranglehold, putting Namibia in an advantaged position over landlocked southern African countries.
In the late 1990s, Namibia joined two civil wars. It sent an estimated 2 000 soldiers to help then President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) fight rebels and, in December 1999, allowed Angolan troops to use Namibian territory to pursue Unita rebels.
Namibia’s involvement in both conflicts drew criticism by the opposition and some quarters of society, who argued it had the potential to increase insecurity in the country.