Namibian students studying in Ukraine have expressed dismay and are calling on the government to evacuate them or communicate with Poland to allow them to seek refuge there. Ukraine hosts about 100 Namibians, including 92 students spread out across the country.
This comes after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that he ordered his country’s military to conduct a special operation in the Donbass region after the leaders of the breakaway republics asked Moscow for military assistance in response to what they claim is an increase in “Ukrainian aggression.”
In a statement yesterday, Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation (MIRCO) executive director Penda Naanda said Namibia firmly believes in the principle of respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with relevant international laws.
“Namibia, therefore, calls on the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, to work towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. In the same vein, Namibia urges the international community to contribute to the immediate de-escalation and to avoid taking further counterproductive measures that will inflame the situation,” read the statement.
Naanda said the government has been following the events, which are rapidly leading to the deterioration of the security situation in Ukraine. “MIRCO is in consultation with all stakeholders, such as NSFAF, in finding an immediate solution to ensure their safety and safe return home, should it become necessary. The Namibian government regards the safety of nationals as very important, and MIRCO is in constant contact with Namibian students studying in Ukraine,” said Naanda.
However, Namibians in Ukraine have grown increasingly anxious. “My request to the Namibian government is to act now with the evacuation process because this should have been done a while ago since most universities permitted students to travel back to their respective countries and continue with the online mode,” said Jesaya Hikufe, who is based in Vinnitsa.
Hikufe, who has been in Ukraine for five years, told New Era that he is concerned about his studies as he is in his final year.
“I am disappointed in how our government has opted to act in this matter because so many nations evacuated their students a long time ago out of Ukraine when the situation was still fresh, while our government insisted that students must remain calm, and ignored the warning signs,” said the infuriated student. Living 40km from the Russian border in the city of Kharkiv is Sharon Siseho, who said yesterday that she was anxious about the whole situation on the ground.
“I am feeling a lot of uncertainty because we hear and see all these things that are going on, and we are not sure about how safe we are. People are panic-shopping, shops are now closed, and most modes of transportation have ceased so far,” she stated.
Siseho said the students’ representative has tried communicating with the embassy, and all they have highlighted is looking for plans for them to be evacuated. “They said they are making plans for us to evacuate to Poland, but no plan is in motion yet.
Our airports here have been closed. Right now, for safety, I’m just staying indoors in my apartment. I am requesting the government to plan an immediate evacuation of all of us here because we are not safe, nor do we feel safe,” she pleaded.
Another Namibian who has been living in Ukraine for 10 years is Paulus Iyambo, who is requesting the Namibian government to liaise with countries like Poland, Hungary and Slovakia to give them special permits to enter their country to get a flight out.
“We are in panic mode, and we are still waiting for official communication. I will try to go out of the main city,” said Iyambo, who is based in Kyiv.
PhD student Joseph Shivute, also based in Kyiv, said he is looking for a way out, even to Poland or any other country, and calls on the Namibian government to help them enter Poland as it is accepting people now.