Liberation War versus Civilians in Perspective

By By SV V Nambala
June 2010
Other Articles
IN life there are people who love undeserved glorification.

Namibia was at war with the former colonial government for almost thirty years. Those who participated in that war had two opposing objectives. The colonizers participated because they wanted to hold onto colonial and imperialist powers.

On the other hand, the Namibians participated because they wanted to free themselves from oppression and discrimination with the intention to rule themselves. Because of that war, the nation was divided and torn apart. Some civilians sided with the liberation idea, and others sided with the colonizers.

Of course some were left in limbo not knowing which side to affiliate to. The group for liberation also split into several sub-groups. Some went abroad and took up arms. Others remained behind in the country and fought from within.The group that supported the colonizers also was split into sub-groups. Some of them literary took up arms to fight against the liberators. Others remained unarmed but silently exercised support to the colonial regime.

The group that went abroad, is the group today in Namibia called “the comrades” irrespective whether one participated in battles or not. Almost each one who went abroad, even just for a month stay is considered a “comrade” by him/herself or other “comrades.” Hence, such a person deserves a “comradely” treatment. The rest of the people are “non-comrades” and often treated “un-comradely.” Whether the “non-comrades” were liberation - or colonial supporters, they are not differentiated by their affiliation. The only yard stick is that they did not go abroad.

We should remember that not all of those who went abroad literary participated in liberation battles. There were many of them who have never seen an actual fight. The reason could be that they were unfit to go to the front because they were too old, or too young, or at school, or purposely evaded the mission to the front by pretending to be sick of this or that disease. Others may have been prevented by circumstances beyond their control even if they wanted to engage actively in the battle front.

It would also be a serious omission not to salute the 100 SWAPO volunteers who chose a route of martyrdom, while others preferred places of luxury. If you aspire to know more about the volunteer cadres consult with Kambwa kaShilongo in Windhoek Town Council.

Those who remained at home faced a similar scenario. Some had literary participated in war by either speaking up against the power that be, or underwent undercover semi-guerilla military training inside the country and fought from within. Some only remained supportive to the cause without actual function. And among them, some wished to engage actively, but because of the unfavorable locality where they lived or other factors of life, they could not directly participate even if they wanted to.

When we look at how the war was waged, direct engagement was not felt across the whole country. As a result some country men and women, when they speak about war of liberation, take a theoretical approach.

Only some portions of the land experienced actual war. Only some of the “non-comrade” Namibians have actually seen war. This is why when people start speaking about the nature of war and its destructive consequences, unnecessary arguments prevail. Most of the actual war happened mostly in the north of the country, especially in the regions of Caprivi, Kavango, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Omusati and part of Kunene. Most of the regions were less affected apart from sporadic cases.

Particular reference is made to the triangle, north of the main tar roads B1 from Ruacana to Tsumeb, and B8 from Otavi to Katima Mulilo. That triangle is the area that experienced and suffered most during the war in this country. Of course this fact stands to be debated upon.

The Caprivi region experienced the war in its early stage under the SWAPO Eastern Front. When SWAPO created the two fronts, the Northern Front and the Northeastern Front, the war of liberation shifted to the northwestern regions. The concentration and magnitude of this war was therefore, mostly, in the above mentioned triangle.

If you ask many people from other regions whether they have ever seen a guerrilla fighter during the thirty years of war, I could almost assure you that if they did see any, it could be perhaps only during the time they were visiting their relatives in one of the aforementioned five or six regions. Otherwise to many Namibians, the war of liberation remains alien. This deficiency of experience allows too many people to engage in uninformed political analyses and debates.

To conclude, I still tend to maintain the point that the war of liberation in Namibia remains an experience of the few and empty or boastful talk to many civilians who remained in the country during the war. Therefore, those from the said regions should tell others what the nature of war was really like and it’s effect on the local population.

For those who have actively participated in the liberation struggle, within and/or without, there are not enough words to express national gratitude towards the direction they had taken which eventually culminated freedom and independence that everyone is enjoying today, including the colonialists and their supporters.

War is not child’s play. It is always full of ugly episodes. Remember, this war was not a creation of the Namibians, but it was imposed from outside. Fortunately, the founding fathers and mothers of this new nation have adopted the invaluable spirit of reconciliation. Let us not misuse and abuse this golden reconciliatory spirit. Let us all forge forward for mutual benefit under the banner of national reconciliation.PF