Namibia: 'Namibia a Model of Stability and Democracy'

DAWIT Giorgis (76) in his 650-page autobiography, 'What a Life!', says of all the nations he has served as a political and humanitarian aide over about 50 years, Namibia is a model of stability and democracy.

Besides being the head of relief in the great Ethiopian famine in the 1980s, Giorgis also came face to face with the horrific brutality of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where he headed emergency humanitarian operations.

Giorgis also witnessed the displacement and killing of the South Sudanese when he served in that country as United Nations (UN) adviser, the crimes against humanity committed by the Sudanese government and its allied Arab militia, the three-decade long war that devastated Angola, the aftermath of the 17-year civil war in Liberia, the massacres carried out by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, the impoverishment of and brutality against the people of Madagascar, the ongoing carnage in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the terrors of Islam terrorist groups in Kenya, Nigeria, and Mali.

Namibia, though, is a different experience, he says.

Thanks to his earlier acquaintance with founding president Sam Nujoma during the liberation movement, Giorgis was invited to Namibia by Nujoma in 1992, and became an adviser in the then agriculture ministry.

Besides advising on how to deliver emergency assistance to the victims of drought, he developed a project proposal to establish an emergency management agency to address all kinds of natural and man-made disasters in the country.

The proposal was accepted by Cabinet, and Namibia's Risk and Disaster Management Agency was established in the office of former prime minister, now president, Hage Geingob.

Giorgis was appointed to head the agency for over two years before he was called to head the UN emergency team in Rwanda.

He also took part in other projects in Namibia: an expert study on alcohol and drug abuse in Namibia, the UN Childern's Fund study on poverty in Namibia, the establishment of a climate early warning system for Namibia, and a study on the conditions of the San people at Tsumkwe.

"Namibia and Namibians are some of the friendliest people in Africa. It is the most organised, peaceful and cleanest country in Africa. It is also the most democratic where the government is clearly accountable to its people and full freedom of speech is exercised responsibly.

"Everything functions. The first president, Sam Nujoma, made this possible," he writes in his book.

He says the peaceful transition of power of three presidents since independence brings tears to his eyes.

"Namibia has not become an authoritarian country, and Swapo must be given much credit. It has dominated the political landscape but hasn't used that advantage to clamp down on the media or on human-rights activists," he says.

Giorgis lauds the peace between the different ethnic groups - especially black and white.

"Namibia can become a beacon of democracy and peace if it overcomes its financial concerns, debt, and most recently the corruption crises it faces.

"Though the Fishrot corruption scandal is depressing and shameful, it must be remembered that the revelations of corruption show Namibia's strength, not its weakness," he says.

Giorgis says one of Namibia's weaknesses is government expenditures.

"The perks, salaries and other expenses of senior officials must be drastically reduced," he says.

According to him, the key to productive change is with opposition parties, and that the liberation movements which have turned into political parties must give way to generational changes.

"Every effort should be made to encourage new parties that reflect the wishes and perspectives of the youth," he says, warning against demonising opposition.

Giorgis is currently staying at Long Beach at Walvis Bay, where he continues to write and do research.

He will return to the United States soon where his wife and son are.

There he is a visiting scholar at Boston University's African Studies Centre.'What a Life' is his fourth book, and is not for sale in Namibia, but copies were given to Geingob and Nujoma.

"Many Namibians do not realise their blessings, because they have not had the opportunity to know what is going on in other parts of Africa.

"I have faith in Namibia. It will come out better and stronger and prove to the world that it is a resilient democracy."

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