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Namibian Human Rights Leader Accuses Ruling Party Official of Death Threat

The head of a Namibian human rights group has accused the secretary general of the ruling SWAPO party of making a death threat against him. The party official denies the charge, calling it far-fetched.

Phil ya Nangoloh – head of the National Society for Human Rights – is alleging a backlash because his group wants the International Criminal Court to investigate former president Sam Nujoma. SWAPO calls the petition to the international criminal court a threat to national security.

From the Namibian capital Windhoek, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about who is allegedly making the threat.

“The death threats are being made by the Secretary-General of the SWAPO Party, Ernest Tjiriange. The reason why we believe these are death threats is that he has been making declarations to the effect that our human rights organization’s challenge at the International Criminal Court, where we petitioned the court to look at violations in Namibia before and after independence, were regarded by him as treason. And then after he made that declaration he called upon anyone to ‘call me to order.” And this is a euphemism, which is understood very clearly by people in this country to mean that anyone is now free to eliminate me physically,” he says.

In response to Tjiriange calling the accusations “far fetched,” ya Nangoloh replies, “He did say that after he made those remarks. He’s now backtracking. He saw the serious implication of his declaration. He’s now running away from the fact. He clearly is now openly denying that that’s not what he meant.”

The human rights group had requested police protection for ya Nangoloh, but he says that has not been provided. “However, (we) believe the reason why this SWAPO official is now backtracking is that because the police have approached him on the implication of his declaration,” he says.

Ya Nangoloh says that the issues the group wants the ICC to look into are complex. “We made a petition to the International Criminal Court in December last year against Nujoma and three others in connection with a complex situation. One, violations of international humanitarian law that were perpetrated, committed prior to Namibian independence in which more than 4000 Namibians have disappeared without (a) trace. Another one involves 35 people who were shot dead, while 1,600 others have disappeared also without (a) trace. But this is after Namibian independence.

“The third part of this complex situation was perpetrated between 1998 and 2003 in which more than 300 people have been tortured and 15 of them have disappeared without (a) trace. These are members of (an) indigenous minority group, which is known here also as the Bushmen. The have disappeared,” he says.