A DIPLOMATIC row seems to be in the offing between Namibia and Britain following President Hifikepunye Pohamba's call for the return of the skull of King Mandume ya Ndemufayo earlier this month.
Speaking during the remembrance of ya Ndemufayo's death at the palace of the Oukwanyama at Omhedi village recently, Pohamba said the whereabouts of ya Ndemufayo's skull remained a mystery and "the English" should explain what had happened to the skull.
Pohamba's statement was not well received and the British High Commissioner to Namibia, Marianne Young, issued a statement denying that Britain was in any way involved in the death of Ya Ndemufayo.
Young said available historic evidence suggests that Ya Ndemufayo was killed by South African forces as South Africa was responsible for the administration of the then South West Africa, a position that was later formalised by the granting of a League of Nations mandate.
That response has angered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The permanent secretary of the ministry, Veiccoh Nghiwete, reacted strongly yesterday on the manner in which Young handled the matter and cast doubt on the accuracy of her observations regarding the skull of ya Ndemufayo.
Nghiwete accused Young of having flouted diplomatic courtesy by first writing directly to Pohamba expressing concern about "the news story linking supposed historic action to British troops in Namibia in 1917 to the disappearance of Oukwanyama King Mandume Ndeulikufa ya Ndemufayo" while simultaneously releasing a media statement on the matter.
"This course of action is inconsistent with normal diplomatic practice prescribed by the Vienna Convention that communication between diplomatic missions and receiving states should be conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the PS said.
He said that Pohamba's call for scholars and academics to establish the whereabouts of Ya Ndemufayo's skull is justified as no conclusive evidence exists that a head returned to Windhoek and buried next to the railway station is indeed ya Ndemufayo's, as suggested by Young and some historians.
Nghiwete said Britain could not totally distance itself from the events surrounding Ya Ndemufayo's death as South Africa was a British dominion, governed under the constitutional monarchy, with the British Crown represented by a governor general at the time.
"The appeal by HE the President for scholars and researchers to establish the whereabouts of Ya Ndemufayo's head remains valid and legitimate," the PS said.
He added: "Such a call is important for Namibia and should not be dismissed in a pre-emptive and cavalier manner."
It is believed that Ya Ndemufayo died in battle at Oihole village in southern Angola by allegedly shooting himself on February 6 1917 to avoid capture by the then colonial forces.
"The English should inform us where Mandume's head is and it is a demand, not a request, that they return his skull," Pohamba said during the colourful remembrance ceremony.
The president suggested that those who are in possession of Ya Ndemufayo's skull should surrender it to either the Angolan government or the Namibian government.
"We are here today to pay homage to the legacy of a legendary African leader, Ohamba Mandume ya Ndemufayo, who died in a battle against the combined British, South African and Portuguese forces at Oihole 96 years ago," Pohamba said.