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North Korean Official’s Visit to Namibia Stirs Controversy

Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights says it is strongly opposed to the official visit to Namibia of the speaker of North Korea’s national assembly. Kim Yong-Nam will hold talks Friday with Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba and former President Sam Nujoma. He will also open Namibia's new North Korean-built presidential residence. The Human Rights group contends that the visit could potentially undermine Namibia’s hard won reputation in the international community, especially because of North Korea’s poor human rights record.

Officials of Namibia’s government were not immediately available for comment.

Phil Ya-Nangolo is the chairman of the Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights. From Oshakati in Namibia he told reporter Peter Clottey that the North Korean official’s visit is questionable.

“We are a human rights group, and our business is to ensure compliance by governments, by states with human rights treaties. These are like international covenants of civil and political rights, and the sister covenant and economic and social cultural rights. These are the yardsticks that we judge governments against, and this is precisely why we are opposed to the visit of the speaker of the North Korean assembly, Mr. Kim Yong-Nam. He is representing a dictatorship in South East Asia, and we are totally against what is going on in North Korea,” Ya-Nangolo pointed out.

He described as unholy the diplomatic alliance existing between North Korea and Namibia.

“We think that if we should have any diplomatic relationship with North Korea, it would be in such a way that Namibia can influence the North Korea regime to change its behavior with respect to human rights. Another thing we are concerned about of course is the concern of the international community with the nuclear program of the country. So, we are also totally opposed to war, any war, in particular, nuclear war,” he said.

Ya-Nangolo said a cross-section of Namibians think North Korea is interested in the country’s rich uranium deposit.

“We suspect that is the case because there has been reports to that effect. And there are bilateral agreements that are being signed by the North Korean regime and our government, and this is in the area of trade. And we cannot rule out that nuclear weapons would be one of the issues that would be agreed upon. In addition to that we are also opposed to the death penalty that is being allowed in Korea. Just about a week or two ago about 15 people were executed publicly 13 of whom were women. This is how brutal the regime is. That’s one of the reasons we are totally opposed to give an honor to a person from a country that is so cruel and treats its citizens so cruel in that manner,” Ya-Nangolo noted.

Meanwhile, the North Korean delegation is expected to leave Namibia Sunday for visits to Angola and Uganda.