Namibia: Geingob Rejects Probe Into Dungeon Crimes

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob has rejected proposals to investigate crimes committed by the Swapo Party against its political prisoners during the liberation struggle.

Geingob said an investigation into the matter could disrupt peace in the country.

He made these remarks when he met a group of former Swapo detainees at State House yesterday.

The group, led by a former prisoner, Pauline Dempers, wanted the president to initiate an inquiry into the alleged atrocities committed by the ruling party against its former prisoners, and establish "the truth of what happened during that time".

Geingob is the first sitting president to meet former prisoners of the ruling party.

Dempers, who spoke on behalf of the group during the meeting, said they also want an investigation to prove the guilt or otherwise of the victims who were accused of being spies, and to find a holistic solution to the unresolved issues.

She explained that this was necessary because most of the former detainees are being stigmatised daily, and are in some cases discriminated against.

"The truth about our incarceration continues to be unknown and elusive to this day because Swapo has never investigated the allegations to prove the guilt or otherwise of the victims. We are here to implore you to jointly find ways of restoring the dignity thus stolen, and which to date, 29 years after independence, we are not enjoying because the spy tag has not been removed from us," she stressed.

Geingob, however, rejected this proposal, saying reopening the issue of the forgotten dungeons could have "this country in flames".

He said those who suffered from the alleged torture and abuse during the liberation struggle should instead forgive their tormentors and forget, to maintain peace in the country.

Geingob added that Namibia at independence also adopted a blanket amnesty that pardoned those who committed alleged crimes, including Koevoet, the Swapo party and the former South African administration.

Furthermore, the president said the national reconciliation policy adopted at independence also meant that people had forgiven each other over the events that took place during the war.

"We all went through things, but we have forgotten. What needs to be noted is that there was a blanket amnesty so that whoever committed a crime during that war is forgiven. So, if we are going to reopen the cases of what happened during the struggle, it is going to complicate things. Many people are not happy with what happened during the war," he stated.

Geingob added that if the cases against the ruling party are to be probed, then all other crimes committed by Koevoet and other forces would have to be investigated "so that they also account".

He added that while he is still in charge, an investigation into such a matter would not take place because it could open old wounds.

"If you want us to do that and grab one another, it is not going to happen under this government that I am leading now. If we are to reopen the whole case, where are we going to end up? Some of us were called CIA, but here I am, because I know it is a lie. It is painful, but if you don't let go, it will hurt you more.

"Are we denying that there were spies? If you are not spies, are you denying that there were spies during the war? You can be innocent, but it was a war, and we are not going to deny that there were spies," he continued.

One of the group members, Justus Tsauseb, however, disagreed with the president's account, saying that their claims cannot be compared to the crimes committed by Koevoet and the former South African government.

He said the most painful part about their issue is that it was always downplayed with "political statements like the amnesty and reconciliation".

"I am not saying that national reconciliation is a smokescreen of some sort. But just brushing it off through saying that Koevoets did this and we have pardoned them, so we should forget about the dungeons, is not answering the feelings that some of the people sitting here are going through," he emphasised.

"Our main concern here is that this was an in-house thing within Swapo. The question is that we are carrying a stink of what happened during that time, so we want to know what we can do together to remove the stink that is stuck on the survivors", Tsauseb added.

Although there was no concrete agreement between parties at the meeting, Geingob urged the group to start engaging the government at all structures, starting with regional offices, to continue the dialogue.

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