It seems Namibia and China’s close relationship goes far beyond business transactions and technical assistance after it emerged that Namibia’s voting patterns during United Nations General Assembly voting sessions are allegedly heavily aligned to China and the eastern world in general.
Yet since assuming its place in the UNGA system in April 1990, Namibia surprisingly finds itself being accused of systematically abstaining on country resolutions during UNGA voting sessions and at the same time allegedly frequently voting with the Non-Aligned Movement(NAM), African Group (with South Africa leading that bloc), and China with an increase in alignment with Russia over the last decade.
This is according to a research paper titled “Namibia’s Voting Patterns in the U.N. System” authored by Tina Zappile, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Political Science Stockton University in the United States of America. Namibia’s voting in the Third Committee follows a similar trend to that in the Human Rights Council. Between 2005 and 2016 Namibia is said to have largely abstained on country-specific resolutions on Crimea, Syria, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Belarus, USA and Canada.
It also states that 90% of the time Namibia and China’s votes are similar while there has allegedly been a steady negative trend with Namibia’s percent agreement with the US.
“The U.S, in fact, is farthest away from Namibia’s voting patterns along with Israel while several of its allies, namely the U.K., Germany and Japan, vote more similarly with Namibia,” the paper claims.
It seems Namibia’s formal votes in the U.N. have generated interest in the U.S.
“We analyzed multiple dyadic vote indices for Namibia and select countries in the UN General Assembly (1990-2014) and individual votes in the Human Rights Council (2014-2016), the Third Committee of the GA (2004-2016), and Security Council (1999-2000) to identify voting patterns and assess whether Namibia adheres to its stated ‘neutral’ policy of abstaining on country-specific resolutions,” reads a part of the research paper.
She pointed out that data demonstrate that in the UNGA, Namibia has voted further away from U.S. interests while maintaining its alliances in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)and African Group.
“It votes lock step with China and has demonstrated closer ties with Russia over time. However, these patterns are not observed in the Human Rights Council where Namibia frequently abstains on country-specific resolutions when their UNGA allies vote against the U.S., U.K., and other members of the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG),” said Zappile.
Namibia[then South West Africa] remained central to the UNs deliberations on Southern Africa over the decades and the international organization consistently advocated for Namibia’s independence.
“Actions in this regard included the General Assembly Resolution 2145(XXI) adopted in 1966 that revoked South Africa’s mandate to administer SWA, the 1971 legal opinion of the International Court of Justice that stated the illegal occupation of SWA by South Africa, and Security Council Resolution 435 (1978) that paved the way to Namibia’s independence 10 years later.”
Namibia sought and gained its independence through UN support and the was influential in the elaboration of Namibia’s Development and Foreign Policy agendas at independence.
For example, Article 96 of the Namibia Constitution stipulates that Namibia will: ‘Adopt and maintain a policy of non-alignment; promote international cooperation, peace and security’ which embraces the values and principles that underpin the United Nations Charter. Further, Chapter 3, of the constitution ‘Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms’ links to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Questions forwarded to the MIRCO for a response on the matter yielded no answers. But the significance of Washington’s relationship with Namibia goes well beyond UNGA voting patterns at a time of the battle for global supremacy between superpowers such as China, Russia and the US. Namibia’s influence on the continent is not significant, but many see it as an influential country within the SADC region where Washington needs to court allies to counter Beijing’s expanding diplomatic, economic and military muscle.
Botswana is seen as the US closest ally in SADC with the majority of the other SADC seen as China sympathisers.
East vs West
Namibia’s perceived alignment to China and the east in general lifts the lid on the recent mushrooming of Chinese nationals and businesses to Namibia.
In a Windhoek Observer report last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration revealed that Namibia currently has a total of 100,000 Chinese nationals in the country.
Chinese companies have in recent times dominated the construction sectors and have amassed considerable wealth through state contracts without giving back little to the country.
Although China has been a key development partner for Namibia in terms of setting up public infrastructure, the US is certainly no bystander in Namibia’s development bid.
Since Independence, information presented to The Patriot by the resident US Embassy indicate that since 1990 US’ total commitment to Namibia has amounted to more than US$1.9 billion (more than N$26 billion at current exchange rates).
Support has particularly been forthcoming in the health and social programs in Namibia which saw the US government supporting health programs in the areas of maternal and child health; nutrition; family planning; water, sanitation and hygiene; tuberculosis; malaria; HIV prevention, care and treatment; and training of the next generation of health care workers.
Namibia and the US have in recent years had stern consternation when it comes to fighting human rights violations.
The US feels Namibia does not fully comply with minimum standards as defined by U.S. Congress but “is making significant efforts to do so”.
Namibian lawmakers have often taken with a pinch of salt the content of international reports that alleges human trafficking and slavery are rife in Namibia.
Namibia is ranked as one of the countries that do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and is placed in the Tier 2 Watch List by the United States Congress.
The US State Department is mandated by Congress to rank countries based on efforts to fight human trafficking.
The rankings are four-tiered. Tier 1 countries are those that meet anti-trafficking standards.
Tier 2 do not but are making a significant effort to do so.
Tier 2 is a warning for countries that may fall into Tier 3. Tier 3 comprises countries that do not meet the standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Tier 3 countries are open to sanctions by the U.S. government.