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Namibian Mass Graves Spark Call for Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In Namibia, a human rights group is calling on the government to establish a truth and reconciliation commission following the discovery this week of mass graves. They were found at a former base of the South African Defense Force, about 570 kilometers northwest of Windhoek. The discovery comes 17 years after an agreement was signed to end the conflict.

Phil ya Nangoloh is head of the Namibian National Society for Human Rights. From Windhoek, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the graves.

“In the last two days there have been discoveries of gruesome mass graves with skeletons apparently of former fighters of the then-liberation movement SWAPO buried next to a former base of the South African Defense Force, ” he says.

The graves were found in Eenhana, capital of the Ohangwena Region.

Mr. ya Nangoloh says, “They were in fact discovered by accident by people who were digging for pipes…and there are fears that there could be more of these graves.” He says for the past 15 years, the human rights group has been calling for a truth and reconciliation in the style of the South African commission that was set up after the fall of apartheid. “What we are looking for in fact is precisely like the name says. Truth first is truth. What has happened? Who has committed what atrocities? When and where and against who? And thereafter, is reconciliation. That people have to be pardoned. Of course, a condition has to be made, a pre-condition has to be stipulated that those who are going to testify before the commission truthfully will obtain amnesty and immunity. One of the good benefits of this commission should be that this must result in compensation, monetary or otherwise, for those against whom atrocities were perpetrated either directly or indirectly through their relatives. And then, there should also be a document issued that atrocities of this nature will not happen again.”