PRESS STATEMENT BY NSHR
NSHR once again strongly condemns the practice of fuelling ethnic hatred and tribally-motivated violence against the supporters of the Opposition political parties in general and in particular against members of the Oshikwanyama-speaking community in the country.
In a hitherto clearest indication of organized ZANUPF style political violence and ethnic animosity, a mob of between 600 and 700 Swapo Party supporters yesterday (Saturday) around noon blocked a Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) meeting from taking place as scheduled to be held at the town of Outapi.
A well organized party of angry and extremely hostile Swapo Party supporters traveling in between 60 and 70 vehicles precluded a group of between 250 and 300 peaceful RDP supporters from proceeding to the venue of their pre-scheduled rally at the town.
The RDP supporters were traveling in about 50 vehicles. Canting inter alia “Kwanyamas go back where came from” “We are the Omusati nation”, “Here is Omusati, not Ohangwena or Oshikoto” and many other racially-motivated epithets, Swapo Party supporters blocked the RDP meeting.
Some of the Swapo Party supporters were armed with firearms, pangas, axe handles, sticks and stones. Several RDP supporters, such as Steven Kevanhu (30), Toivo Nambinga (30) and Hidipo Iita sustained slight injuries, while RDP leaders Cornelius Mbangula and Hizipo Shikondombolo received a brick blows. The aborted gathering was scheduled to start at 14:00 at the town.
RDP Interim Secretary-General Jesaya Nyamu was billed as the main speaker at the rally. Shortly after the arrival of RDP convoys at the town coming from Ruacana and Oshakati, Swapo Party activists showered the RDP group with stones, while an RDP flag was seized and set ablaze (see pictures via this press release at www. nshr.org.na. Between five and 15 RDP members and one senior police officer were stoned and the windows of at least one RDP Nissan minibus vehicle were smashed in what some have described as “a micro civil war”.
Some of the RDP victims of stoning have laid criminal charges against the Swapo Party at the Ongwediva police precinct. As the violence raged on, members of the Namibian police, numbering between five and seven, looked on either powerlessly or approvingly. Dressed in both blue and Special Field Force uniforms, most of the Nampol officers were females.
Human rights defenders and many other observers accused the Omusati police as well as the health personnel at the Kamhaku state hospital of being “biased and unfair” against RDP supporters. Human rights monitors overheard of a policewoman as saying: “These Kwanyamas and Ndongas must go back where they came from”.
Omusati regional police commander colonel Simeon Shidinge was allegedly nowhere to be found during the violence, nor could he be reached for comment thereafter.
“The Outapi incident is very discouraging due to the fact that this ZANU-PF style conduct by Swapo Party members came within a day after highly respected Swapo Party founder and former Robben Island prisoner Herman Toivo ya Toivo, fornot only has expressed concern about growing political violence in the country, but he also appealed for tolerance and political maturity in the run-up to the presidential and general elections scheduled for 2009. Hence, there is clearly a third force faction within the ruling party.
This third force is apparently trying to undermine the peace and Namibia’s system of democracy as envisioned in the country’s constitution,” noted NSHR executive director Phil ya Nangoloh. In an sms message addressed to the NamPol Inspector-General and copied to certain sections of media late Friday, NSHR warned of a potentially violent situation after Outapi-based human rights monitors reported earlier that Swapo Party supporters led by, among others, a certain David Enkali Shivute, rehearsed to prevent RDP supporters from entering Outapi own.
Located some 700 kilometers northwest of Windhoek, the Namibian capital, the town of Outapi is capital of the Omusati region. Human rights defenders and political analysts regard the region as a “citadel” of former president Nujoma and his loyalists and thus a “no go area” for RDP and any other political parties in the country. RDP is a breakaway movement led by axed former Namibian foreign minister Hidipo Hamutenya (HH).
Himself an ethnic Kwanyama and a 2004 Swapo Party presidential candidate, HH was unceremoniously axed from Nujoma’s cabinet on May 25, 2004. This move by Nujoma (a member of the Ngandjera tribal minority group), was at the time intended to undermine HH’s presidential ambitions as it did. Ethnic Ovakwanyama people constitute the largest tribe making up the Ovambo ethnic group on which the Swapo Party relies for political support.
The Ngandjera group, of which Nujoma is a member, is one of the minority tribes within the Ovambo ethnic group. A large section of Ovakwanyama people remained in neighbouring Angola after an artificial boundary was drawn up by Union of South Africa and Portuguese forces in 1917.
The 1917 separation of Ovakwanyama people became only possible following the defeat of a stubborn anti-colonialist resistance by the Ovakwanyama people led by their slain king Mandume ya Ndemufayo. Meanwhile, another group of between 30 and 40 mainly Oshiwambo- speaking Swapo Party supporters in Windhoek also attempted to break up yet another opposition meeting by close to 100 mainly Rukavango-speaking members of the All People’s Party (APP).
The Swapo Party supporters, most of them women, also chanted inter alia “We are commended by Nujoma” and “Mbwelas go back to Kavango where you came from”. Between 10 and 15 watchful members of the Namibian police separated the two groups and thus prevented another violent encounter based on political intolerance and hate expression.
The incident take place at a makeshift soccer field located in the Oohambo dhaNehale section of Windhoek’s Hakahana suburb. NSHR calls upon the Inspector- General to launch a thorough investigation into the incident and to ensure that a further incident of this nature does not occur again.
NSHR also believes that senior Swapo Party leaders in the Outapi area, such as regional councillors Simon Shileka of Outapi and Kanyenye Aluvilu of Anamulenge, should be held vicariously criminally and/or civilly responsible for the violent acts of their supporters and followers.
“There are good reasons to believe that councillors Aluvilu and Shileka either actively participated in the organization of the violence or that they should have known about the planning and implementation of such violence, but do nothing to stop it,” said ya Nangoloh.