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Govt to prioritise war heroes' repatriation

2015-01-07  Mathias Haufiku

Govt to prioritise war heroes' repatriation
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By Mathias Haufiku WINDHOEK- Government will this year prioritise the repatriation of the remains of dead heroes who formed part of the Swapo Central Committee and the Military Council of Swapo’s former armed wing, PLAN. The Military Council served as a vehicle for Namibia’s liberation and drew up strategies for the operations conducted by PLAN during the liberation struggle. Its members were either regional commanders or political commissars while others were chosen on merit or their vast experience in the struggle. Chairman of the Repatriation Committee, Retired Major-General Charles Namoloh, told New Era yesterday that government would not entertain random repatriation requests by relatives of fallen soldiers. This was in response to an increase in the number of such requests, as relatives of former participants in the liberation struggle, who died in exile, try to re-bury them in the country. Namoloh confirmed that the Repatriations Committee had been inundated with requests from families who wanted the remains of their loved ones to be repatriated. “We will not be held at ransom. Otherwise the entire process will be flawed,” Namoloh, a career soldier and now Minister of Local and Regional Government, Housing and Rural Development, said. “Not everyone who was in the Central Committee or Military Council will be repatriated because a position on those two bodies does not necessarily make you a hero.” He added: “Dying abroad or on the battlefield during the struggle does not automatically make you a hero. Heroes are those people who performed exceptional work. If we do not control the process then everyone who died during the war would be heroes.” The repatriation programme of war heroes started last year. “This is a government programme and we will not allow people to dictate who we must repatriate. There are procedures being followed to determine who qualifies to be accorded a hero’s status. Now it seems as if it is a fashion to repatriate the remains of all those who died during the war,” Namoloh said. Namoloh said the repatriation process would continue this year provided that more graves of war heroes are identified. Government last year said the biggest challenge hampering the process were the difficulties to identify gravesites in countries such as Zambia, Angola, Botswana and South Africa. Veteran Affairs Minister Dr Nickey Iyambo said last year that government’s wish is to return the remains of all those who died in exile home. “Of course it is our wish as government to repatriate the remains of all the leaders but we are finding it hard to find their graves,” Iyambo said. “As you can recall they died way back and the graves are not in formalised cemeteries hence it is difficult to find the remains of the leaders we want to repatriate.” Government last year spent millions to repatriate the remains of one of Namibia’s struggle stalwarts and formidable anti-apartheid fighter, Eneas Peter Nanyemba, along with the remains of four other combatants – Walde Homateni Kaluenja, Isak Shikongo, Natalia Ndahambelela Shikangala Mavulu and Augustus Nghaamwa from Angola. The five combatants all died in Angola between 1977 and 1983 while on duty. The bodies of Putuse Appolus and Lineekela Kalenga were also repatriated last year from Zambia.
2015-01-07  Mathias Haufiku

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