Windhoek-Despite the policy of reconciliation, racism and tribalism reign supreme among Namibians, and individuals continue to first identify themselves along tribal lines and the colour of their skin.
As such the Office of the Ombudsman has now compiled a report with recommendations for the government to take concrete actions to address racism, tribalism and other forms of discrimination that have been identified as a threat to Namibia.
“We point out that there is an urgent need for ‘unlearning’ racist language and dismantling fixed identities through radical change. We need to engage a creative language in order to combat racist language,” said the Namibian Ombudsman Advocate John Walters yesterday.
Walters presented the report of the findings and recommendations on the national inquiry into racism and other forms of discrimination and tribalism in Namibia. “The name of the report says it all: ‘A nation divided: Why do racism and other forms of discrimination still persist after 27 years of Namibian independence.’ I believe that it is a notorious fact that we are a divided nation,” said Walters.
“Within six months of the receipt of this report I want measures, concrete measures, They [state agencies and identified institutions] must inform of what concrete measures they have taken to implement my recommendations,” said Walters.
Walters said while it is not his duty to enforce the recommendations, he is empowered by law to take remedial actions. If the minister, to whom directions is given, feels he/she cannot implement, then the minister must inform the ombudsman on why they cannot implement specific recommendations, he says.
“I am tired of begging for a response from a clerk or minister in the ministry. I think these recommendations are what the people in this country told us, what the International Human Rights system recommends to Namibia. I am trying to compel Namibia to comply with its international obligation. This report was not meant to embarrass government or to shame it,” he said. The findings in the report indicate that effective remedies for racism are unavailable or unhelpful to victims of racism and discrimination in general.
The report suggests the creation of an informal and inexpensive tribunal where victims can tell their stories – “so that systemic inequalities, racism, racial discrimination may be eradicated”.
This is because, says Walters, “our anti-discrimination law fails dismally to bring about social change as it disempowers those who experience racial discrimination”.
The report deals with issues of access to justice, derogatory expression and racial slurs, disability and education, rights to employment, health, land resettlement, sport, and lesbianism, gayism, bisexualism and transgender. The ombudsman assumed a national inquiry to assess the extent to which human rights violations in terms of racism, racial discrimination, tribalism and discrimination in general are still being perpetrated in the country.
The inquiry assessed the state compliance with its obligation under various international and regional human rights instruments and to hear the feelings of the Namibian public.
The public testified that racism, tribalism, and racial discrimination are persistent in the country. The report makes a number of recommendations, one of which is directed to the church to play a key role in discouraging racism and racial discrimination. This is because the church plays a huge role in the many lives of Namibians, the majority of whom are Christian.
Discrimination against people of other gender also gets attention, with Walters suggesting that the Namibian prosecutor general places a moratorium on prosecution of sodomy, until the legal framework is consistent with the country’s obligation to human rights treaties in place.
Further, one of the many recommendations in the report are that Namibia monitors and evaluates the legislative and policy framework to ensure the effective implementation of the right to employment, especially for women and youth, and reduce poverty levels.
•••• Caption (Pic: Ombudsman.jpg):
Ombudsman John Walters