• July 9th, 2020

Opinion: Daniel Kavezemba Kariko: A unifier of exceptional qualities

On 9 November 2019, I represented the Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Katjavivi, at the centenary commemoration of the death of Kavezemba Kariko at Otjohorongo (Erongo Region).  Kavezemba Kariko played a key role in the creation of Otjohorongo (Omatjete) “Reserve” that served as one of the “reception centres” for the Ovahereros who were being released from the German concentration camps.

The great scientist Albert Einstein once said: “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” That is a befitting description of the life of Kavezemba Kariko because he lived his life to the full in the service of his people.
This great Commander of the Ovaherero Armed Forces under the White Flag demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and bravery in the face of the genocide that was unleashed by the Germans against the Ovaherero and Nama people during the 1904 – 1908 war of resistance. Some of the fierce battles in which he heroically participated were at Oturenda (Omaruru area), Otjihaenena (near Kalkveld), Oviuombo, Okahandja, Erindi ra Tjihenda and Ohamakari – the latter being the mother of all battles in German colonial history which later led to General Von Trotha’s notorious extermination order. In one of their most poetic of songs (outjina), the Ovaherero female singers were to sing “Ohamakari ritje tjekua.”

 Loosely translated into English that would mean “even on the day of Ohamakari the sun rose and set as if nothing had happened.”  It was during the battle of Ohamakari that Mbuaondjou (another brave fighter) apparently asked Kavezemba: “Why are you killing people as if you are killing animals?” To which he replied: “I am shooting to rend the heavens and the earth asunder!”

The commemoration of Kariko’s life should be part of our collective efforts, not only as Ovahereros or as Namibians in general, but as Afrikans, in the broad sense of that word, to reclaim and re-write our history. There could be no better character to write about than Daniel Kavezemba Kariko – “the short man with a long gun” as he was popularly known.

There is a saying: “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” Most of the colonial writings about Afrika have “pushed” us into background characters in own story. Pan Afrikanism is about self-identification and self-definition and therefore the onus is on us to tell our own story.  Our history – as black people in general – has been distorted. This is chiefly due to the fact that our ancestors, for the most part, did not record their experiences in writing; thus giving the “hunter” (the coloniser) an open field to tell the story of the “hunted” (the colonised). Here I must hasten to add that there were parts of Afrika that had a written script before colonialism e.g. Ethiopia and the Congo. 

On 9th November 2019 - on a bright and hot summer day within the surrounds of the great Erongo Mountains where Kavezemba Kariko had fought some fierce battles against the Germans, I stood in awe as speaker after speaker paid tribute to this great man. What was equally amazing was not only his great military exploits, but the fact that he had travelled widely e.g. to the former Ovambolamd, Angola, Botswana and South Africa in search of alliances in the spirit of Pan Afrikan solidarity. He was therefore a typical embodiment of Pan Afrikanism. He could speak Otjiherero, Afrikaans, English, German and most probably Oshiwambo and Damara/Nama as well.  His great grandchildren hail from different cultural backgrounds i.e. Ovahereros, Ovambos, Damaras, Tswanas and San. To give testimony to the life of Kavezemba Kariko as a unifier, the Ondonga Royal House was represented at this centenary and a great grandchild of Ongandjera ancestry also spoke on the occasion. It is said that Kavezemba Kariko took refuge in the former Ovamboland where he was warmly received and hosted by the Ondonga Royal House.  At a personal level, I was nicely surprised that it had to take someone from Ongandjera to educate me that even the Tjihenuna clan have an ancestry claim to the Kavezemba bloodline – something that I had not known before. I was deeply touched and felt greatly honoured by that revelation. To crown the centenary of Kavezemba Kariko’s death, we unveiled his tombstone that afternoon and next to his grave is laid to rest his son Shaanika Kariko. The name Shaanika speaks for itself regarding his cultural background.  Need I elaborate any further why I say Kavezemba Kariko was a unifying figure of note?

*Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna is the Director in the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly 


Staff Reporter
2019-12-13 08:12:45 | 6 months ago

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