Honoring History: President Samia Suluhu’s crucial attendance at Hage Geingob’s funeral.

Honoring History: President Samia Suluhu’s crucial attendance at Hage Geingob’s funeral.

A small debate has erupted on social media following the appearance of President Samia Suluhu at the funeral of former Namibian President Hage Geingob, who passed away on February 4th this year.

The debate stems from recent observations that President Samia has undertaken several foreign trips. Within just two weeks, she travelled to the Vatican in Italy to attend an invitation from the Pope, then to Norway. She returned home for the burial of former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa. Afterwards, she travelled to Ethiopia (African Union) for the 37th Heads of State Summit, then back to Tanzania, and most recently, on February 23rd, she journeyed to Namibia to attend the funeral of President Hage Geingob, who died at the age of 82 due to cancer.

The surprise among many young people on social media regarding President Samia Suluhu’s trip to Namibia portrays a need for more awareness regarding their country’s history and its contribution to the liberation struggle of many African nations. For countries like Namibia, Tanzania’s role in their liberation cannot be overstated. Tanzania served as a central hub for the liberation efforts of Namibia and many other countries in southern Africa.

President Samia Suluhu’s visit to Namibia goes beyond attending a funeral; it is about strengthening the historical brotherhood between Tanzania and Namibia. This history, written with gold, blood, and sweat ink, symbolises the deep connection between these nations during their liberation struggles.

For President Samia Suluhu to miss the funeral of a Namibian President is akin to a parent missing their child’s funeral. No amount of short-term visits would suffice to justify her absence from such a significant event, given the weight of history and brotherhood between Tanzania and Namibia. It’s time for Tanzanians, especially today’s youth, to understand their country’s history and connections with Namibia.

Since 1964, Kongwa Camp in the Dodoma region was recognised by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as a centre for refugees involved in the liberation movements of southern African countries. After the Organisation of African Unity was formed in 1963, among the established groups under the auspices of the OAU was the Committee for the Liberation of Africa, which soon became known as the ‘OAU Liberation Committee’.

The committee was tasked to decolonise the African territories that remained under colonial rule; the Liberation Committee was responsible for coordinating aid given to liberation movements and managing liberation funds. Significantly, the Liberation Committee headquarters was based in Dar es Salaam.

SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation), Namibia’s liberation movement, was the first organisation to have activists in Tanzania Dar es Salaam. After many liberation movements crowded in Dar es Salaam, the Tanzanian government, on behalf of the Liberation Committee. Set aside a tract of land in central Tanzania for the liberation movements.

The land was situated at an abandoned school and railway station 2 km west of Kongwa village and 80 km east of Dodoma. SWAPO were among the first liberation movements to be hosted at the place. The camp also nurtured fighters from FRELIMO (Mozambique), ANC (South Africa), MPLA (Angola), and ZAPU (Zimbabwe), preparing them for the liberation struggles of their respective nations.

Peter Katjavivi, former Secretary of Information for SWAPO and a historian in his book ‘A History of Resistance in Namibia,’ reveals that SWAPO orchestrated all its attacks and liberation efforts from its headquarters in Tanzania. Tanzania served as a vital link for Namibians in exile in Tanzania and Namibia.

Most SWAPO exiles arriving in Tanzania in the early 1960s were recruited as contract workers in Francistown, Bechuanaland. In 1962 and 1963, SWAPO sent some of these exiles to Egypt, the USSR, and China for military training alongside exiles from other liberation movements. Others enrolled in schools, notably the Kurasini International Education Centre, currently known as the Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim Centre for Foreign Relations, a secondary school established by the African-American Institute in Dar es Salaam to prepare southern Africans for higher education.

John Otto Nankudhu, one of the first SWAPO guerrillas to arrive in Kongwa, indicates that he and his Namibian comrades arrived around April 1964 and were soon joined by a larger Mozambicans led by Samora Machel. Within ten years of SWAPO and FRELIMO presence in Kongwa, the former turned school buildings into military camps, constructed new buildings, and separated the movements within the area using wire.

Tanzanians living near Kongwa and the guerrilla camps supported the fighters, including food and water. By 1965, around 300 SWAPO fighters were in the Kongwa camp, with many participating in incursions into Namibia between 1965 and 1966.

All humanitarian and military aid, such as weapons, from abroad for the fighters at Kongwa was fully received and evenly distributed by the Tanzanian government. Through Kongwa, SWAPO obtained a strategic base for planning daring attacks to overthrow German rule in Namibia. At times, Tanzania had to use its resources to ensure the Kongwa fighters had what they needed to liberate their nation. Tanzania provided them with travel documents, clothing, weapons, and military training, often coordinated with foreign militaries from Cuba, China, and Russia.

Tanzania remains at the heart of Namibia’s liberation, a history that cannot be erased. Tanzania spared no effort to ensure the freedom of Namibia and other southern African nations. Credit goes to the Father of the Tanzanian Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, for his leadership, which significantly contributed to the liberation of many African countries. The history of Namibia today cannot be narrated without mentioning Kongwa, Namibia’s genesis of liberation. The political landscape of Namibia today was shaped and matured in the area of Kongwa, Dodoma, Tanzania.

In summary, the friendship between Tanzania and Namibia is exceptionally unique. It is a bond of loyalty, everlasting brotherhood, and shared hardships and comforts. President Samia Suluhu’s visit to Namibia for the funeral holds significant historical weight. In Namibia, she is not just a visiting leader; she is considered at home. Her presence in Namibia during such a solemn occasion is akin to a parent attending their child’s funeral, symbolising the deep-rooted ties between the two nations.