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From Tribe to Nation

From Tribe to Nation

From Tribe to Nation

Chris Jacobie

THE close to 30-years since the 1989 United Nations Elections and Independence in 1990 is the longest uninterrupted period of continuous peace in the past close to 120 years of Namibian history.

That is a marvelous achievement of a nation, but it is only half the story…

The genesis of this long period of peace is that those Namibians who cared enough, buried political and tribal differences in the face of their biggest adversities and weathered the onslaughts of factions and internal strife, including a failed Caprivi rebellion, as well as the infamous political projects to split tribal strongholds through political formations like the COD and RDP and the splintering of opposition parties into even smaller factions, but less influential. Namibians have seen and done all that ethnic politics promises, but always fails to deliver.

Whether Namibians like it or not, tribalism and ethnicity failed and will eventually fail totally in a unitary state and constitutional democracy.

Attempts along tribal lines to derail the land conference ended in humiliation for those that miscalculated their importance and Namibians unity exposed the fault lines of faction of convenience.

Namibians of peacetime realizes that not every expectation can be met, but also that not everything should be lost. Peace allows citizens time to discover and communities to mature and adapt to a system that they might not totally agree with, but agree with mostly.

What they also know through spectacular failures of tribalism is that it is not the safe room to retreat to in difficult times and does not threaten nations, but eventually destroys tribes.

A healthy culture of give and take during the constitutional negotiations, the re-organizing of the civil service and the establishment of the state, the police and defense force, was slowly but surely nurtured and is serving Namibia well as foundations of growing trust.

It is difficult if not impossible to recognize a growing trend that can only be described as tribalism and what makes matters worse is that it appears to be organised tribalism that is close to a campaign of a few and at the expense of the many who always pay the highest price for bad and selfish leadership.

In Namibia’s short period of independence, history has already proven that tribalism is more dangerous than racism. The problem is that discrimination of whites against fellow Namibians is criminalized because it is visible, while discrimination of fellow black Namibians against their brothers, is hidden because there is no difference in color.

It is an insult to believe that tribalism is less of a crime than racism. Only because it does not involve white Namibians it is not a lesser evil. White Namibians who were and are in some ways still being – mostly unfairly — treated as suspects of discrimination by association, should stand up and speak for fellow Namibians who are accused of tribalism, because of all citizens they should know the pain of the accused and the victims alike. Tribal conflict also involves them, because it is committed under their name as Namibians also.

With all the challenges that the nation is facing from various corners and levels of society, the rules of political engagement should not become cries of the politically wounded in the trenches of personal survival that Namibians are hearing, but somehow like a bad dream, hope will go away. Namibians must make most of the peace that prevails.

There is something wrong when the suspension of the CEO of the Windhoek Municipality, Mr Robert Kahamise, is treated as tribal revenge. It must be of concern to everybody that the management of the City of Windhoek and the interest of the citizens can be held hostage by bad decisions. Tribalism is not a hiding place. It is a prison of colony of the mind.

If tribalism is abused it will means amnesty to so-called victims and a free hand to those who have not fear, but boundless arrogance to abuse, while everyday Namibians suffers neglect and are the proverbial turkey who turns up for an invitation to dinner.

Windhoek suffers cholera and hepatitis outbreaks and many more serious challenges. It is insensitive leaders that cannot solve issues quickly and correct the mistakes so that everybody learns and benefit from it.

Namibia does not consist of only two tribes: one who is wronged and another that is wrong.

Namibians must speak out and stand up for each other, because they survived not only bullets and bombs, but the fatal shots of factionalism, racism and tribalism that could have divided the Namibian soul in a tribe of hate and a tribe of bitterness where compassion and reconciliation would not have found space.

It is in the abandoned trenches of lost battles and defeat of apartheid that the Namibian spring of unity in adversity is blooming and a nation is born.

The generation of the longest Namibian peace is the headstone marking the death of violence and war that characterized Namibian society at regular intervals for the past 120 years.

We are all born into a tribal cradle but we will all be laid to rest as Namibians in the Namibian soil.

As it should be.

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