• April 25th, 2019
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Unsung hero Rev. Juuso Niilonga Shikongo (1917-1991)

Focus, National
Focus, National

WINDHOEK - A teacher, priest, fearless freedom fighter and selfless public servant, Reverend Juuso Niilonga Shikongo is one of the unsung heroes of the liberation struggle, who risked his life on several occasions for the welfare of his community and the independence of Namibia. He was born in 1917 at Iihongo, a village in the Onyaanya constituency of the Oshikoto Region. He was married to Hilma Namene, daughter of Silvanus Nyambali yaNehale who is the son of King Nehale lyaMpingana. Silvanus Nehale is the founder of Omuntele village where he first settled in the early 1940's. Shikongo grew up as a village boy carrying out all the family chores of looking after livestock and helping his parents in the mahangu field. His parents were simple peasants with little Christian background. Apart from being a self-motivated scholar and Christian, his elementary teacher Mateus Katangolo encouraged him to study further. In 1938 after finishing his elementary schooling at Iihongo, Shikongo was admitted to the Ongwediva Boys School at age of 20. In 1941 he was admitted at Oniipa Teachers Seminary run by the Finnish missionaries and completed his teacher training in 1943. From 1944, he served as teacher and principal of Onathinge Elementary School until 1946. Towards the end of 1946, a Finnish national by the name Alho informed him that his wish to be trained as a priest was granted and he would therefore start with his pastoral training at Elim Theological Seminary in 1947. He graduated after three years of training and was ordained a priest in 1949. Among his classmates were the late Reverend Jason Amakutuwa and Reverend Markus Amushila. He first started his pastoral duties at Onyaanya ELOC congregation in 1950 and later moved to Omuntele in the early 1960's. The Onyaanya congregation covered the area that is now covered by the Omuntele congregation. People from Omuntele used to travel about 30 kilometres to Onyaanya to attend church services and for spiritual counselling. Due to the long distance, the then ELOC head office realized the need for establishing another congregation at Omuntele. Juuso Shikongo was identified as a suitable person to be sent to Omuntele to start a new congregation. At that time Omuntele was not easily accessible by road or any other means, neither a place to live. The forests of Omuntele were infested with all sorts of wild and dangerous animals and there was no reliable transport from the village to the service centre which is at Oniipa adjacent to Ondangwa. There was therefore a need to have someone who is courageous, hard working and fearless to undertake the mission.  At that time, Omuntele had no proper school, and many children were not attending school while others had to travel long distances to Onyaanya to attend school. Shikongo had to leave some of his children behind with friends and relatives to remain in school at Onyaanya. The school at Omuntele was only introduced in the early 1960's. He served as a pastor for Onyaanya and Omuntele for a combined period of 35 years. In 1988 Rev. Juuso Niilonga Shikongo retired from active pastoral duties at the age of 71. During the war of liberation, Shikongo suffered a great deal at the hands of the SWATF and the notorious counter-insurgency unit Koevoet. In 1981, between the months of April and December, he spent about nine months in incarceration at the Oniimwandi Koevoet base near Oshakati.  He was arrested because of his involvement in supporting the PLAN combatants who were operating from the area of Omuntele and because of his six children who left for exile. He was perceived as an enemy of the apartheid regime, for having allowed so many of his children to become so-called terrorists and to fight against the occupationist apartheid regime of South Africa. He had to answer to Koevoet about the whereabouts of his children and why they went into exile. He endured all those humiliations and suffering, but never wavered. After his release from prison, he continued to carry out his pastoral and patriotic duties to his congregation and community with dedication. He managed to forge unity in the Omuntele community, which stood together and overcame many hardships. As a united community, under his leadership, Omuntele became one of the PLAN combatants' operational zones against colonial occupation and oppression. He is also known for having led the negotiations with the government at the time to take a water pipeline from Okatope to Ambende at Omuntele from 1984 to 1988. Today the pipeline is benefiting thousands of villages between Onyaanya and Omuntele and beyond, which depended entirely on drawing water from wells during the dry season. He died in 1991 at the age of 73. Because of his role and the immense contribution he has made to the people, the Namibian government decided to name the first Senior Secondary School at Omuntele after him which was inaugurated recently.  This was done to keep alive the legacy of the late Rev. Juuso Niilonga Shikongo, not only as a school teacher and pastor, but also a selfless patriotic citizen.     By Tonateni Shidhudhu  
New Era Reporter
2013-09-19 09:48:51 5 years ago

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