By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | 5 February 2024 (IDN) — Namibian President Hage Gottfried Geingob, a veteran of the country’s independence struggle, has died after a brief battle with cancer in Windhoek, the country’s capital, and a short stay at a U.S. hospital.
President Geingob was diagnosed with cancer following his annual medical checkup last month. He passed early Sunday. He was 82.
Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, sworn in as his replacement, paid tribute to his predecessor. “Our nation remains calm and stable owing to the leadership of President Geingob who was the chief architect of the constitution”.
He was among a generation of activists from Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique and elsewhere, who in the decades following World War II pushed for independence from colonial rule.
Namibia was the last country on the continent to decolonize in 1990, following a nearly quarter century of armed conflict with apartheid South Africa.
From 1948 to 1973, the racist National Party in South Africa subjected Namibia, then known as South West Africa, to apartheid rule. African activists launched uprisings and demands for independence but apartheid South Africa held firmly to power until the U.N. recognized the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people.
President Geingob led the movement against apartheid South Africa, which had annexed his country and introduced its system of legalized racism that excluded Black people from political and economic power.
Starting in the 1960s, Geingob rose through the ranks of the country’s liberation movement under the leadership of Sam Nujoma, the Founding President of an independent Namibia.
Brutal campaign by Germans against the Herero and Nama people
Recently, President Geingob spoke out about the brutal campaign waged by Germans between 1904 and 1908 against the Herero and Nama people. It escalated into the first genocide of the 20th century.
President Geingob was soft-spoken but firm on advancing Africa’s agenda as an important stakeholder in world affairs, as when he called the exclusion of Africa from the Security Council “an injustice.”
A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia in 1964, he also studied at Fordham University and received a Masters degree in International Relations from the Graduate Faculty of The New School in 1974.
Between 1990 and 2002, Geingob served as the country’s first prime minister after chairing the committee that formulated Namibia’s first constitution.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the world leaders who sent messages of condolence. He called the leader “a towering veteran of Namibia’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid.”
A long-serving member of the Swapo party, President Geingob lived in exile for 27 years. He led the movement against apartheid South Africa and spent time in Botswana, the US and the UK, where he studied for a PhD in politics.
On his return in 2020, he wrote on social media: “Looking back, the journey of building a new Namibia has been worthwhile… Even though we have made a lot of progress in developing our country, more work lies ahead to build an inclusive society.”
By 2021, however, three-quarters of the population thought the country was going in the wrong direction, a three-fold increase since 2014, according to independent polling organization Afrobarometer. Corruption scandals during his administration included what became known as “fishrot” where ministers and top officials were accused of taking bribes in exchange for the awarding of lucrative fishing quotas.
Those accused have reportedly apologized and were fined.
The heroic narrative of Swapo having liberated the country is also losing its appeal among a generation born after the event.
Swapo has now chosen Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the current vice president, as its presidential candidate for November’s planned elections.
She will become the country’s first female president if elected. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: Namibian President Hage Gottfried Geingob died on 4 February 2024. Credit: Phill Magakoe | Source: News24.
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