Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Namibia: Campaigning turns violent

The election campaign - praised by many political watchers as one of the most peaceful in recent years – turned violent last weekend and the police had to try hard to maintain some semblance of order.

At Oshakati, where DTA President McHenry Venaani addressed his party’s rally this past Saturday, a group of flag-waving Swapo supporters tried to disrupt the gathering, but the police acted promptly and stopped them before they could come closer.

At Outapi in the Omusati Region, a group of Swapo supporters besieged a house belonging to Helvy Shilongo, an RDP member. They removed a party flag, set it on fire and threatened to do the same with the house itself.

The police seem to have foreseen the weekend’s violence as Swapo and the RDP held rallies at Outapi and Ruacana respectively.

A day before the rallies, police commanders summoned RDP leaders and pleaded with them for a postponement of the rally as there was a real possibility of a violent clash between supporters of the two rival parties. However, RDP leaders refused to compromise.

“The police argued that it would be impossible for our supporters to travel to Ruacana via Outapi where Swapo was holding a rally. They proposed that we postpone our rally, but we refused. We are campaigning and we have no time to waste just because Swapo does not tolerate people exercising their democratic rights,” said RDP’s Nghishiikoh Joshua Nghishiikoh. He said after the Swapo rally a group of ruling party supporters headed straight to Shilongo’s house.

They were chased away by the police but on Sunday they returned. Armed police officers had to guard the house because the Swapo supwporters refused to leave.
They were demanding to “see” the owner of the house, whom they accused of noise pollution for allegedly using a sound system at night. They also accused her of bringing “her RDP” to Outapi from Oukwanyama.

“That reveals deep-lying tribalism. However, I am not from Oukwanyama; I am from Uukwaluudhi,” Shilongo said.
Nghishiikoh described the siege of Shilongo’s house as “organised crime”.
“This is a matter of concern to us. Swapo leaders must tell their members to stop intimidating us or we will be forced to retaliate with serious consequences,” he said.

The group of Swapo supporters only dispersed before midnight, allegedly leaving a message that they would return and destroy the house on November 29 as part of their victory celebrations.
“The police patrolled the area the whole night and urged us to remain vigilant and report any suspicious movements,” said a distressed Shilongo, whose house doubles as a day-care centre.
While the situation was calming down at Outapi, another drama was unfolding at Oshakati.
Three female Evululuko residents – Julia Mattheus, 21, Desderia David, 20, and Victoria Nghipakwamwenyo, 20, – described how men sporting Swapo colours descended on them with a variety of weapons.

Mattheus was hit with a wheel spanner, sustaining injuries to the forehead and the right arm. David was hit in the face with a stone while Nghipakwamwenyo sustained injuries to her left arm.

The incident happened around 18:00 but by 23:30 the women were still at the police station where officers allegedly refused to register their case because “the suspects are unknown”.
“Police officers mocked us for wearing RDP colours and they came up with all kinds of excuses why we should not be assisted. When we insisted on laying criminal charges, one female officer called us vulgar names, and I was even called a witch,” David said.

NamRights’ Phil ya Nangoloh had to intervene on their behalf, sending a text message to the regional police commander, Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, requesting his help.
Cases of assault were eventually registered and the three women received medical treatment at the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital.

Incidents of political violence were also reported at Onamindi village in the Okalongo Constituency where Swapo and DTA supporters clashed at local shebeens.

The RDP’s Oshana regional secretary, Valde Namunja, is requesting regional police commander Kashihakumwa to call a meeting between the police, regional councillors and leaders of political parties.

“These supposedly sporadic incidents of violence can become the spark that sets the whole country on fire,” he said.

Kashihakumwa said he was already looking for any available opportunity to bring political party leaders around the table. “It has to take place this week, probably Wednesday,” he said.

The Namibian Sun

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