By John Dong, MPP 2018
On Wednesday, September 28th, the JFK Jr. Forum warmly welcomed the President of Namibia, His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob, for a public address moderated by HKS professor Calestous Juma. In his speech, President Geingob first recounted Namibia’s historical progress in improving freedom, equality, and democracy, and then went on to discuss his platform for the country’s economic development. He ended his speech by expressing his optimism in building stronger unity between difference races not only in Namibia but also in Africa and across the world.
President Geingob is the current and third president of the Republic of Namibia. After receiving both his BA and MA in New York City, President Geingob went on to a successful political career in both the UN and Namibia, including formulating Namibia’s national Constitution and serving as its first Prime Minister from 1990 to 2002.
In his speech, President Geingob stressed the importance of transparency, accountability, and procedural justice in ensuring peace and democracy. He believed that establishing transparency in both the political and legal system is the only way for a government to effectively generate trust among its own people, who will in return respect those who are elected. He argued that Namibia has worked very diligently to improve accountability and the rule of law, not to look good in front of its Western allies, but rather for the sake of its own prosperity.
In addition, President Geingob proudly presented the progress Namibia has made in regards to gender equality. He noted that Namibia has achieved an exactly 50/50 gender ratio in its general assembly, and 47 percent of offices on the national level are now held by women, including the office of the current Prime Minister.
Yet, in addition to presenting an optimistic account of Namibia’s progress, President Geingob also expressed his concerns over the nation’s economy. “People don’t eat good Constitution or peace; they want food, they want shelter, and roads,” he said, revealing his worry that poor economic conditions may cause serious problems, including the deterioration of political institutions as people lose respect for their leaders. According to President Geingob, Namibia should not shy away from marketing its precious natural resources, such as gold, diamonds, and uranium, to attract foreign investment that will in return provide tax revenue for building basic infrastructure and promote technology transfer to Namibia’s indigenous industry.
Finally, President Gaingob argued that Namibia’s economic success is also contingent on the nation’s ability to reconcile its longtime racial and tribal conflicts. Nevertheless, he was confident that such tensions will eventually disappear as Namibians gradually learn to work together in unity, just like “when we build houses, we use bricks as our foundation, bricks representing Whites, Damaras, Herero, Namas. We use that and build the wall. When we finish and let it dry up, you can no longer identify individual bricks, but just see one wall.”
President Geingob continued with his inspiring analogy to end his speech. “Africans, too, must build an African house, and therefore one Africa, one continent, and one world too. I am a globalist and a Pan-Africanist and believe that we can also build that wall in the world where we no longer see individual nations. When we see the wall, we would say, ‘one world, one people.’”