26 August 2010

Namibia Day 2010

Namibia: The sun will rise, SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_4917For Namibians, the story of Namibian independence is one of a long line of selfless heroes who have taken up arms against a series of occupying forces. Celebration of this national pride has centred on 26 August, Namibia Day - or Heroes Day.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 1973 declaring 26 August Namibia Day. It would be a day to celebrate national pride and commemorate the struggle for Namibian independence. But in Namibia, the significance of this day in local history runs deeper than this, and is seen as a day to commemorate the heroes who have fought and sacrificed for their nation's freedom. Each year, celebrations take place at important battle sites, and popular political leaders commemorate veterans of the Namibian War of Independence, which was won in 1990.

After the Germans lost South West Africa during the First World War, South Africa took on the administrative duties on behalf of the League of Nations. After the Second World War, South Africa refused to relinquish control over this territory to the United Nations Trusteeship Council. The South African government continued to refuse all UN Security Council resolutions urging it to withdraw from Namibia, Eventually, by Resolution 3111 (XXVIII), the UN-appointed Council for Namibia became the legal authority for Namibia, until its independence.

But subjugated Namibian citizens did not simply wait for their luck to turn. The South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) was dedicated to this struggle, and sought to oust its oppressors through its armed unit, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). The inaugural battle of their War of Independence began on 26 August 1966 at Omugulugwombashe.

The heritage of the Namibian people is bound up in the experiences of those who have resisted oppression despite all odds. This dates back to the turn of the twentieth century, with the fate of the indigenous Herero tribe. On 12 January 1904, Herero leader Samuel Maharero plotted with other chiefs to revolt against the foreign German presence. The Herero were brutally defeated at the Battle of Waterberg several months later. Those who were not killed were driven into the harsh Namibian desert plains. Despite odds against him, Maharero led a relatively small number of his people to safety in British Bechuanaland, or Botswana, where he remained an important leader-in-exile until his death on 23 August 1923. His remains were repatriated to Namibia, and Heroes Day celebrations usually take place at his reburial site, amongst many others around the country.