Public Lecture Report: “What and where are Namibia’s national interests?”

Also available in Deutsch

On April 1, 2015 the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation hosted a public lecture under the theme “Where and what are Namibia’s national interests?” This event was jointly organised with the German Embassy as part of the German Weeks, which started on 2 March and finished on 18 July. The event was hosted at the Nampower convention Centre and was attended by slightly more than two hundred people.

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What and where are Namibia’s national interests?

Dr. Bernd Althusmann, Resident Representative of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, delivered the opening speech. Dr. Althusmann summed up Namibia’s achievements since the independence 25 years ago and argued that the main foundations of the Namibian society are justice, freedom and peace. “The Namibians can be proud of the economic and political stability and security in the country.” Further he contended that, although there are many positive aspects of Namibia there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in health care, education and poverty reduction. Finally, he argued that it should be the goal of every politician to formulate national interests and to combine individual needs of the population and the goals of the government for the benefit of the country.

Mr. Ullrich Kinne, Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy, contributed to the debate as a guest speaker. Mr. Kinne talked on the subject of national interests from a German perspective. He started with historic facts and definitions of national interests and explained the process of formulating them in Germany. He said that national interests are best seen in the foreign policy of a country. After all national interests are dominated by the topic of security. He concluded his speech with an overlook on the main German national interest, European integration, and emphasised on the positive political development in Namibia.

Professor Joseph Diescho, Director of NIPAM delivered the keynote address. He focussed on the definition of a Namibian nation and the difficulties it faces in how to draft national interests. Prof. Diescho convened his address by making reference to the inaugural speeches of all the presidents of Namibia, both former and current. He emphasised the fact that none of those speeches made reference to national interests let alone to mention it. Hence, he argued that this is where it all starts. “If our presidents and national leaders are not even mentioning the issue of national interests, then how could we expect it to be known as an important principle for Namibia?” Prof. Diescho alluded to the fact that it is not an easy task for any government to define national interest. He gave an example of the United States of America (USA) as being one of the countries that came closest to defining national interest. Prof. Diescho argued that the issue of national interest is the definition of a nation. He contended that much also has to do with the history. The 1884/85 Berlin conference that divided African continent into little artificial colonies, created countries, which would have never existed like that. This is also the main reason for the controversial attitude towards nationality in Namibia. Most of the Namibians refer to themselves as part of an ethnic group and not as Namibians. This mentality, instilled into Namibians by years of colonialism still haunts them. Furthermore, he said there is the problem of the de facto one-party-government of Namibia, which doesn’t allow the necessary division of party and government interests. The fight for independence was one of a common goal (against a common enemy), once independence was achieved, failure to identify a common goal and purpose is part of the problem we confront today. It should be a common goal to have a nationality building model as the Americans have, where everyone, who is born in the US is a full citizen. Also Namibia has to include Christian values in its national interest, for Namibia being one of the most Christian countries in Africa. He went on to say that Namibia is a very young nation and that is has not been a nation by definition before 1990. To do so, a country has to fulfil all the criteria’s set by the UN, like sovereignty over a definite region or being able to trade with another nation. Therefore Namibia is a nation for 25 years and already is a model of democracy in Africa. For instance, the new president was elected from an ethnic minority and the former president Pohamba left office in a voluntary and democratic way. National interests have to include security as a main topic, especially in the African context. Guard your people, from war or even economic superpowers like China. Diescho suggested on building a national identity first and then formulate national interests. The national identity has to be based on loyalty. One has to empower the Zebra-Nation as it is already a role model of inclusion in Africa.

Contributions from the floor

The audience had an opportunity to make contributions from the floor. One question was on how Namibia could be independent and define its own national identity if the constitution was influenced from outside by western countries? Diescho argued that the writing of the Namibian constitution was independently done but of course with three legal advisers. It was a process of give and take. He emphasised that the constitution is a legal document and it borrowed some ideas and values from international instruments. This shows the strong democratic and independent thinking in Namibia, but he also emphasised that independence would have never been possible without foreign aid. Another statement concerned the new budget plan of the government. It is not well balanced towards the almost useless military and should have been directed towards education and health care. Furthermore the term national identity was not clear in definition. The question concerned weather one should lose his heritage and have it replaced by the national identity. The Professor clearly stated that it is difficult to combine that, but critique alone is not the way but everyone should think of solutions. The last comment from the audience concerned the demographic challenges of Namibia. There are too many young and poor people and the rich population is old and doesn’t want to change the current deficits. That’s why the terms peace and security are defined differently. Diescho emphasised on the role of the elder in building this country and that just close cooperation leads to achieving the goals.


Dennis Zaire

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