Sunday 16 May 2021
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Kunene, Omusati land fight turns nasty

As Government persist on a lacklustre approach to address the land issue in northern Namibia – anger and fury is slowly growing amongst the residents of Kunene region over land grab by residents of Omusati region.  The situation is so dire that traditional leaders in Kunene are said to be mobilising and threatening to take matters into their own hands to address the land predicament after President Hage Geingob failed to respond to a petition addressed to him.

The petition, in which Geingob was given 60 days to intervene in the longstanding land issue was signed by 91 traditional leaders from Kunene, two months ago. The dispute stems from accusations that people from Omusati occupy large areas in villages and communal areas such as Omakange, Otjiurunga, Omuhama, Otjerunda, Otjondeka, Otjindjerese, Otuzemba and Ehomba. A source privy to a community meeting held on 9 July 2017 at Ombombo, 70 kilometres south of Opuwo, former Opuwo Mayor Kaaree Mupya requested at least 50 young men from each headman in ‘Kaokoland’ to be availed to assist in carrying out a an operation to erect demarcation boards and to remove illegal fences in ‘Kaokoland’ [Kunene].

When approached by The Patriot this week, Mupya confirmed having made the request.  “The youth will assist in erecting boards, I am not creating an army. There is no war. I am a law abiding citizen. When the time comes, I will also inform the Namibian Police to accompany us to observe and witness our activities. We do not want to be misunderstood. What we want to do is to ensure that there is a clear separation between ‘Kaokoland’ and ‘Owamboland’,” said Mupya.

However, Mupya denied that with the 50 young men from each chief in Kunene, he intends to remove all illegal fences in ‘Kaokoland’. “The claims that we are about to take matters in our own hands are devoid of any truth. We do not want to resort to violence as alleged, this situation can still be resolved peacefully,” he added. Despite the serious implications that could emerge should the land situation go out of hand, Mupya lamented that the group is yet to receive feedback from Geingob.

“The head of state to whom we addressed our petition did not respond.  He[Geingob] is not the first person to take this [land issue] lightly.  Our counterparts from Omusati did not cooperate when we requested to meet them to deal with this amicably. We have tried with our governors and councillors, they simply do not care.  We have raised the issue several times with the land minister, he too did little to address the issue. As such the President was our last resort in this regard,” Mupya briefly stated.

Mupya went on to say: “Now that the President did not respond, we [Kaokoland residents] have decided to assist ourselves in any way possible.
If you look at the situation, our cattle have nowhere to graze because of all these fences that have been illegally erected.  We are forced to keep our cattle in kraals because they have nowhere to go. So there is no other way then for our cattle to go and graze where they are supposed to, even if that means going through these fences.”  Furthermore, Kunene governor Angelika Muharukua confirmed that the petition by the traditional leaders had reached the President.  Muharukua was quick to note that the unsettled group should wait for the President’s response.

“Who gives the President a deadline to respond to their plights? We only see such things when people want wars or coup d’etats. I have been in government for 23 years and I haven’t seen our presidents being given ultimatums.  We make appointments to the head of state, and the president is the one to decide, not the other way round.  I received the said petition and forwarded it to the rightful place [Geingob].  Am I now supposed to ask the President why he has not responded? This land issue is just being politicised,” said Muharukua, who in the past described herself as a ‘half to the President’.

‘Kaokoland’ traditional leaders are frustrated over the manner in which the “Uukwaluudhi Traditional Authority under the leadership of Chief Shikongo Taapopi” allegedly continues fencing off huge pieces of grazing areas that are part of ‘Kaokoland’.  In a recent interview with The Patriot, Chief David Tjimuhiva of Omakange and a senior councillor in the Uukwaluudhi Traditional Authority denied any land grabbing by the said traditional authority.  Tjimuhiva said the recent uprising by people of Kunene was politically motivated.

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