The Namibian (alternately SWAPO) house reminds me of the family next door who everyone knows are always fighting and they pretend they do not in public but have recently given up appearing like a good family and outright take their fights to the streets. And amid all the fighting is tribalism.
Tribalism in Namibia is an everyday reality and has always been festering at surface level however it is rearing its face somewhat bravely of late and we need to engage it before it turns ugly. My take is that as Namibians we have never truly reconciled as people groups. In December I saw a picture on social media of empty Windhoek streets and I knew that most Namibians have returned to their segregation camps for the festive holidays. And just like the times of colonialism and apartheid, they would return for work only. This is of course not an absolute observation and I am aware that there are people who originate from Windhoek and that is fine, be happy. However, in terms of observing a pattern that could explain why tribalism is an issue today, I qualify that mentally we are still segregated as Namibians.
After independence, we were quick to sing songs of national reconciliation and at the time they served their purpose because we were reconciling as an independent holistic nation but now we need to reconcile as Namibians with ethnicities that need to be celebrated and treated equally. And therein lies the issue that, despite presenting a united national front to foreigners, we are not united amongst ourselves.
Let us take the issue of the Herero and Nama Genocide for example; Many of us who are not Nama and Herero are very comfortable with looking at the dialogue on this issue from a distance after all, government represents us all and so it is being taken care of right?
Now let us pretend it was an Oshiwambo genocide? Would the attitudes on the negotiations be the same? Can we confidently say not having representatives from the Aawambo people affected by the genocide sitting at the negotiation table is okay because the Otjiherero majority government represents all Namibians? If this scenario makes you uncomfortable, please check your privilege! Whilst if a lightbulb went off, yes that is the face of tribal inequality dear!
Furthermore, one only needs to take a road trip to discover that towns in Ovamboland are more economically developed if the gross neglect of Southern Namibia especially is anything to go by.
That is why it is easy to convince masses that they have rights to ancestral land. There are facts and there are alternative facts, so on the ancestral land claims I would echo the President and encourage those who want their ancestors land given back to them to please inform (factually) the nation where this land is and who took it from them.
The problem with these type of claims is that they are misleading to a nation already sensitive to tribalism. Claiming ancestral land is rooted in a sense of feeling disenfranchised by belonging to a certain Namibian tribe. It implies that there are other tribes who have access to your ancestral land. Hence please point it out clearly, otherwise can we stop being emotional and engage the land issue on merit?
At this juncture, on the land issue, we are not anymore talking about a land question but rather series of land related questions that so far have not yielded satisfactory answers from government and tribalism should not be one of the reasons why there are no answers nor why illicit land claims should be made.
Hence any attempts at land reform must aim at ensuring that all Namibians should be able to access land on equal terms as is our constitutional right.
My point is that we cannot pretend not to see traces of tribal inequality in our societies hence in as much as we should celebrate the diversity of our people groups, we should also pursue measures that will make all Namibians feel celebrated and catered for equally.
Rakkel Andreas is currently an MA Development and Governance candidate at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. She holds an MA European and International Studies from Centre International de Formation Européen (CIFE) in Nice-France as well as BA in Media Studies and Political Science from the University of Namibia
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