For almost an entire week since the news broke, the Red Flag Commando Hall in Ephraim Hei and Clemence Kapuuo streets in Katutura were a trickle of hustle and bustle.
To symbolise the occasion, the three flags had finally been united and reloaded in essence - the red, white and green flags had been flying high a few days before the week in front of the Red Flag Commando Hall.
Having been commemorated for the past 35 years, the day has been a shadow of its former glory after falling casualty to the traditional-cum-political chicaneries and divisions within the Ovaherero community.
The event almost fell into oblivion before being revived this year. By some divine twist, Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako of the Ovaherero and his traditional protégé and close ally, Katuutire Kaura, decided to bury the hatchet, if only for the 35th anniversary of the assassination of the late Paramount Chief Kapuuo.
To accentuate the new peacetimes, the two made a joint announcement on the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC)’s current affairs programme, ‘Keetute’, that indeed they had made peace.
Nowhere else apart from the traditional shrine of the Red Flag in Windhoek, the Commando Hall of the Red Flag Commando No. 2, was there the highest order of the Red Flag in the country after Okahandja. The announcement had been well spread among members of the Ovaherero community, adherents of the Red Flag, members of the DTA of Namibia - led by Kaura and the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) members - led by Riruako.
Riruako’s withdrawal of Nudo from the DTA before the 2005 presidential and National Assembly elections has been at the centre stage of the seeming artificial division among the Ovaherero, with a consequent impact on the Red Flag and many other activities associated with this community, such as the annual pilgrim to Okahandja. Also affected were efforts by this community to obtain reparations from the government of the Republic of Germany for atrocities committed against it during the wars of resistance between 1904 and 1908.
Now the big question was whether or not this reconciliation was for real.
Indeed, the actual commemoration turned out as real as it could get, at least by the standards of the most recent history of this traditional community, especially in the aftermath of the DTA/Nudo split.
Never in its recent history has either the commemoration of the assassination of Chief Kapuuo or the pilgrim to Okahandja, let alone the Commando Hall, seen such an enthusiastic turnout.
In fact, the turnout could only be likened by many as second only to the 2004 centenary commemoration of the Battle of the Ohamakari in Okakarara.
Because the hall was packed to its brim, provision was made for a public address system outside the hall. Although the rains started falling just before the event began, this seemed not to have dampened the spirits of the community members in attendance that evening, who were clearly starved of internal peace, if not fatigued by the internecine wars within and with itself.
Accompanied by ululations, traditional reception style, Riruako and Kaura eventually emerged side by side into the hall just after seven o’clock.
For the first time in a long while, generals of the Red Flag from two opposing divides, real or artificial, were seated shoulder to shoulder. Among them was General Field Marshall Herman Hamauka who welcomed the attendees at the hall.
The directing of the commemoration was seemingly shared between Riruako and Kaura followers, if not admirers and/or adherents, as much as was the composition of the commemoration preparatory committee.
The occasion was filled with mixed emotions. There was sadness due to the commemoration of the death of a dearly beloved chief while there was a reason for joy, with people who have been separated for a long time having the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company under one roof.
Speaker after speaker showered praises on the fallen chief, vacillating from one end of the politico-traditional pendulum to the other, albeit politics being a forbidden topic at the occasion whose dress code was strictly the traditional, Red, Green or White flags.
To epitomise the love and peace that the late chief stood for, the high table was draped in a white cloth. There were five candles, two with the pictures of the late chief to actualise his presence at the commemoration. The other three candles, which were lit by the his daughter, Kaireree Kazondovi, represented the late chief as a descendant of the survivors of Imperial Germany’s genocide against the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu; the assassin’s bullet that killed him in 1978; and the light at the end of the tunnel.
A common thread ran not only through the speeches but also deep into the souls of many who had attended the commemoration, showing that there was hope among the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu, hence the beginning of a new era of peace or the beginning of the end of the old era of disunity, if you like.
Both Riruako and Kaura who have been accused of masterminding a schism among the community, this time, wanted to be remembered for uniting it after learning the lessons of disunity the hard way.
Prior to this, the two had attended the commemoration of King Mandume Ndemufayo of the Aakwanyama. The perceived unity among the adherents of this traditional community seem to have had a profound reawakening on both Riruako and Kaura, if not having infectiously rubbed off on them. Now they understand the meaningless and delimitating impact of disunity on their people. But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in eating it. PF