Thousands of young people were born in army camps during Namibia’s bloody guerrilla war for Independence, a formative period that has since been entrenched on those who grew up fully accustomed to war zones.
The psychological impact of the liberation struggle on the young ones of that time is described by some of them as “one dimensional” because “all we knew is that when we grew up we would be sent to fight on the front”.
One of the core themes meted out by most of the then youth is the psychological debriefing and proper integration into an independent society which has never taken place.
But despite the negative perceptions that accompanies the term ‘Children of the Liberation Struggle’ because of the perennial societal chaos caused by a group of struggle kids in Windhoek, there are those who are making a meaningful contribution to the Namibian society.
“During our time in exile under the leadership of SWAPO, we were not raised with the sense that Namibia will gain independence without our involvement. We were raised to go and fight at the border if necessary and to bring our part to Namibia’s independence.” shared Naita Hishoono, Director of Namibia Institute for Democracy.
Hishoono shared that she was born in Angola and raised in exile in east Germany just to return to Namibia late August in 1990. “I saw Namibia for the first time as a 14-year-old and I just had to take it all in as a country that was my home country, the home country of my parents and believe that now I will get to enjoy the fruits of independence that I was told about in exile” she narrated.
Pioneering Oshiwambo rapper Felix Johannes, better known as Shikololo, painted an eerie picture of the unspoken challenges exile kids had to endure. “I do not see independence in Namibia nor many African countries, I see a trap set by the ones who gave us the so-called democracy to continue with its imperialist agenda.
My message for the independence celebrations 2018 is that Namibia is our land, this is land that we are given by God for all of us to live in freely.
No Namibian should be made to feel like they do not belong because the struggle for independence cost lives and it was long and bitter.
This is a truth about our past that we should never forget,” said Shikololo.
Shikololo also shared that growing up as a SWAPO pioneer meant that he was anticipating a future as a freedom fighter. He attributes the lack of rehabilitation and integration for exile children as a failure on the part of government. “What we were being taught for years in exile as children abruptly ended without us being consulted or informed in a meaningful way and this threw us off. We sort of had to find our own ways to integrate ourselves into society. For many the best way was to study and get a job which was different from the military upbringing we were indoctrinated in as children. We were told that Namibia is free, there is okawe no ngopolo (diamonds and copper) just to make us happy about coming home but the reality was that there were major challenges that we had to overcome on our own,” conveyed Shikololo.
Ipumbu Sakaria, Manager: Corporate Communications at the Namibia Statistics Agency also shared that as a SWAPO pioneer in exile, he grew up believing that he was being groomed to become the future intake of soldiers for the People’s Liberation Struggle (PLAN).
“That was literally all that we knew, and we were looking forward to it. Of course, when independence came we were told that we must come to Namibia because it is apparently free and that we now must contribute to its socio-economic development. The ideology in exile we were raised in was one of a community, where we were all one with the same mission and vision of seeing a free Namibia.
As children that time, we did not even know that there were different tribes in Namibia, we thought we were all just one and the same” he added.
Following recent public debates on the relevance of annual independence celebrations, considering the ongoing economic recession in the country, Hishoono believes Independence Day should be celebrated beyond 21st March annually.
“Independence Day is important to remember where we come from as a nation. Personally, I feel it is too short to only have it as one day.
It is also important that Namibians celebrate their independence in a way that includes all Namibians because the one-day stadium event does not reach all Namibians and, so we need to find a way to keep the occasion relevant holistically” she emphasised.
Contrastingly, Benitha Nakaambo, Chairperson of the Namibia Exile Kids Association (NEKA), felt that the importance of independence has been reduced to nothing over the years.
“Whether we should have it or not, doesn’t really bother me anymore, Independence Day needs to be reviewed to mean what it says. It is a day for every citizen to feel a part of this country, but at times it seems it is a state for only some to celebrate.
Personally, I don’t even go to the stadium because I don’t understand why I must stand in the scotching sun to hear a 3-hour speech whilst others are comfortably enjoying their warm seat in an air-con controlled tent and cool water. I had enough share of suffering in exile and I have no intention of continuing on that path,” she argued
Iipumbu on the other hand opined that the reality of Namibia after independence was that colonialism, racism and oppression of the Africans by whites continues unabated, albeit in different forms and fashion.
“Not much has changed, the only real visible change is that there was a cease fire. Colonialism and segregation continued. The political struggle was overcome but the economic one remains still to be waged.
The major difference between exile and Namibia was that in exile it was one for all and all for one; after independence it is all about me, myself and I.
Quite a tragedy if you ask me” he observed.
Hishoono also added that in exile, they were raised to believe that Namibia was going to be an equal and just society.
“However today we still have laws and policies prohibiting equal wealth distribution, access to land, education build, their homes and basic human rights.
This is something that all Namibians must work together on, to create this equal society that I was raised believing in” she stressed.
According to Shikololo, Namibia today looks very different from the narrative of Namibia most exile kids were exposed to and a personal challenge for him was when RDP was formed.
“My life went downhill when I saw the leaders fighting each other. I was approached to pick sides as a young Namibian Oshikwanyama artist and this was confusing because my upbringing in SWAPO was that we are one family. This put me in a difficult situation and there was nothing in place to rehabilitate me with all these ideological changes taking place in SWAPO,” he shared.