Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba has hailed former President Sam Nujoma as a unifier who is worthy of praise for spearheading the fight for the country’s independence. Pohamba’s remarks came after a human rights group asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate former president Nujoma for alleged complicity in human rights abuses during and after the country's fight for independence from South Africa.
The Namibian National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) said this week that thousands of people are still missing while others disappeared between 1994 and 1999. Pohamba accused NSHR leader P. ya Nangoloh of attempting to disturb the country’s stability.
From the capital, Windhoek ya Nangolo tells reporter Peter Clottey he is not on a personal vendetta against former President Sam Nujoma.
“The president has got the right like any other citizen to express his opinion. The fact is he did not deny that thousands of people have gone missing, and their fate has not yet been clarified, and this is the point. We are making the point that the violations of international law, which is part of Namibia, have been committed, and efforts to try to resolve these things internally including setting up a truth and reconciliation have been turned down. This is why we were left with no alternative, as a responsible human rights organization to approach the International Criminal Court,” ya Nangoloh pointed out.
He said the NSHR is not flouting any regulation by referring the former president and some of his colleagues to the ICC.
“We are not violating any law … I have personal respect for President Pohamba as a unifier, as a man of reconciliation, but I disagree with what he is now saying,” he said.
Ya Nangoloh denied having any personal vendetta against former President Sam Nujoma.
“Absolutely not. I’m saying we based this on the fact that human rights violations have been committed, and they cannot simply be forgotten, and not investigated as this would promote impunity. If we do not deal with our past now, it would come back to haunt us many, many years to come,” ya Nangoloh noted.
He differed from President Pohamba that the ICC might not have jurisdiction over Namibia. He adds that the president’s remarks are meant to create fear in the ordinary Namibian.
“Our reaction is, what the president is saying can create an impression that to challenge a powerful person in court is an insult. We don’t think so. This creates fear in the minds of so many people in this country that it is wrong or it is a crime to challenge someone who is in the high echelon of government. We think this is wrong. It is like we are now being intimidated, simply because we have followed the laws of this country,” he said.
Ya Nangoloh dismissed assertions that his action is tantamount to tarnishing the reputation of both the country and former President Sam Nujoma.
“That is not true. What our critics are not saying is that what we are doing is illegal,” ya Nangoloh noted.