President Hage Geingob is expected to attend the annual traditional and cultural festival of the ǂNukhoen or Damaran, also known as the ‘Gaobfess’ [King’s Festival] at Okombahe in the Erongo Region tomorrow.
It is hoped Geingob’s keynote address will pave the way to unite the Damara people under traditional leader Justus Garoeb, whom they have bestowed the title of king, and those belonging to six government-recognized traditional clans.
It will be Geingob’s first attendance of the festival since becoming head of state, but he is said to have frequented the event as prime minister and minister.
It is also believed that it will be the first time that Geingob and Garoeb will share a platform after the president blasted the former UDF leader over tribal sentiments he expressed in the media.
In the words that appeared to have infuriated Geingob, the retired politician called on all Damara-speaking Namibians to vote for Geingob in 2014 because he is a fellow Damara and that it was time for Damaras to eat.
Geingob, who has been pushing for a national identity, stands accused by the Damaras of not being a proud of his heritage by refusing to address them in their vernacular, especially at meetings in areas predominately inhabited by Damara people.
However, the Damara King’s Council secretary general Abner Xoagub said they will not dictate to Geingob as to what language he will use to speak to more than 10 000 Damaras.
“He can speak the language, it is his language. He is the keynote speaker on Saturday but we cannot prescribe to him as to what language he should use. That will be his decision,” said Xoagub.
Regarding the relationship between Geingob and Garoeb, he said that whatever issues exist between the two leaders should be addressed with them as he cannot speak on their behalf.
Regarding the division among the Damara chiefs, Xoagub blamed the Traditional Authority Act for having divided the people who all were the subjects of Garoeb before independence.
“Just because chiefs are not recognized by the government does not mean they should not report to the king [Garoeb].”
In a press briefing on the festival Garoeb indicated that the Damaras are the initial inhabitants of Namibia, alongside the San.
“We had and are still having a kingship system of governing. The supreme law of the ǂNukhoen is the constitution of the ǂNukhoen,” he explained.
“The king had various chiefs heading the various clans living all over Namibia and across the borders – we are having over 34 and more clans. Currently only six clans are recognized by the government.”
He added: “During the People`s Assembly on Friday [today], the draft revised supreme law of the ǂNukhoen and the trust fund will be tabled, discussed and adopted.”
According to Garoeb, they are expecting over 10 000 tribesmen and tribeswomen, government senior officials, leaders from the other tribes, invited guests and representatives of communities from all 14 regions.