NKURENKURU – President Hage Geingob, in an apparent reaction to renewed claims of Lubango dungeon brutalities during the country’s liberation struggle, said none of the warring sides could claim to have had cleaner hands as people suffered on both sides of the divide.
The head of state made the remarks at Nkurenkuru during his Heroes Day address on Sunday, in which he cautioned against 'opening old wounds'.
The alleged torture in the infamous Lubango dungeons in Angola were perpetrated against suspected spies of the South African apartheid armed forces who were hell-bent on infiltrating Swapo, then a liberation movement, and destroying it from within. Some of the suspected spies now maintain they were wrongly accused.
A recent book by Oiva Angula, a Lubango captive, beams light on the supposed underground happenings in the dungeons. The book has sparked nationwide debate, with some saying Swapo must answer for its supposed crimes, while others, like Geingob, say Swapo members too suffered in similar fashion.
Critics of the Lubango episode say national reconciliation, declared by President Sam Nujoma upon independence in 1990, meant that all warring sides put their past behind them and embrace the new dispensation of unity and nation-building.
Geingob reminded the nation about this on Sunday, saying: 'Following the ceasefire of 1988, signed by Swapo, the Angolan and South African governments, conditions were set for the implementation of the UN plan for the independence of Namibia, as was set out in the UN Security Council Resolution 435.'
'Blanket amnesty was granted to those who fought on both sides,' he told a gathering that comprised many former freedom fighters.
To demonstrate his point, Geingob said those who stood in the path of Namibia’s freedom, including those who killed and maimed innocent civilians and children, have benefitted from that amnesty and are part and parcel of the Namibian society today.
'I must caution, there are those that are intent on opening old wounds. They shall open a Pandora’s box, notwithstanding the fact that many collaborators and perpetrators of gross crimes against the people of Namibia are still here,' he said to thunderous applause.
He asked, in light of the renewed calls for answers and justice in the Lubango matter, whether government too should now prosecute – on behalf of the victims – those who were responsible for the torture and killing of Namibian people.
'Should we bring back those SWATF, Koevoet and police, the Robben Island Prison guards and try them for their inhumane treatment of the late Eliaser Tuhadeleni, Martin Kapewasha, the late Gerson Veii, Helao Shityuwete, the late Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, the late John Pandeni, Jerry Ekandjo, Petrus Iilonga, the late Immanuel Shifidi, Willem Biwa and many others?'
'Should we try them for having banished many of us for close to three decades out of our motherland? Should we try them for having subjected and relegated our fellow countrymen and women to inhumane treatment at home? We should not forget that Namibians were relegated to second-class treatment, denied education and basic freedoms. We still have in our midst some of those individuals who violated our rights,' the president reminded the audience.
'All those were consequences of war.'
Geingob called on the nation to not look back at its dark past, involving all warring parties, but look to the future if peace, national reconciliation and healing are to be achieved.
'We should not lose sight of the reason for which so many Namibians sacrificed their lives,' he said.