Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba, on his inauguration on 21 March 2005 as head of state, said: “Our policy of national reconciliation has contributed to creating a society that is largely in harmony and at peace with itself.”
Indeed, Pohamba knew too well he was inheriting a country boasting a dark history of acrimony and a war that pitted Namibians against each other.
During the war of liberation, some Namibians fought for the independence of their motherland and others fought against it.
Those who fought for independence emerged victorious and are recognised as true liberators of our country – which today is one of the leading democracies in the world.
The independence of Namibia was an outcome of massive sacrifices on the part of particularly those who supported it. Floods of blood gushed from the bodies of sons and daughters of the soil whose only crime was to crave for freedom, basic human rights and self-determination.
On the part of Swapo, which led the pro-independence war, there is recognition that this bloodshed was a peril expected of any war. It was not a beauty contest where participants would emerge unscathed and with their makeup still intact.
When Founding President Sam Nujoma says “we have promoted the policy of national reconciliation and adopted the motto ‘One Namibia, One Nation’” it is to remind us of the path we have walked to reach where we are today and the possible consequences if we had chosen to pursue revenge because of our chequered past.
The recent weeks have seen a re-emergence of calls to investigate, and even account for, the supposed conduct of Swapo during the war, especially against the suspected spies who allegedly suffered in the Lubango dungeons.
While it could be true that some innocent people were wrongly accused of being spies, it cannot be denied that spies indeed existed. After all, there was no single war in the history of mankind that did not have spies.
Tactical and battlefield intelligence is a very vital tool in any war, and must precede any actual military intervention. To then paint a picture that spies never existed is a poor joke that no one must laugh at.
President Hage Geingob couldn’t have put it better on Sunday when, while addressing the Heroes Day commemoration at Nkurenkuru, he said both sides of the war suffered in equal proportions.
To peddle perceptions that only one side suffered is to suggest that Swapo members, supporters and sympathisers who suffered similarly – some of them children or mere civilians – were worthless beings.
War, like Geingob exclaimed, is war. It wasn’t a Sunday picnic, a bed of roses or a walk in Windhoek’s Zoo Park. Regrettably, with war comes suffering, whether deserved or not.
But once a ceasefire is reached and an amnesty declared by all warring sides, like it happened in Namibia in 1988, it would be utterly insensitive for anyone to start claiming justice as if only they were the victims.
Such calls are provocative and would only succeed in dragging the country back into its dark history – darkened by colonialism against which Swapo had to defend Namibia. The war – with all its perils – has ended and we must forgive each other as compatriots and channel our energies towards building a nation whose future inhabitants would never have to endure the same pain again.