The announcement that Namibia has finally acceded to the African Peer Review Mechanism received lukewarm response from political analysts and politicians, with some stoically pointing out that there is nothing to celebrate.
Analysts bold enough to speak their mind on record – very few were willing to comment – point to the fact that while signing up for APRM is a good thing, Namibia lost the advantage long ago to ride the APRM wave during its formative years from 2003.
Had Namibia signed up during the time when it was the continents youngest democracy showing maturity in the form of smooth political transitioning, she could have been today’s continental voice, uninterrupted, dismissed or overlooked. Namibia could, for instance, have been the commanding voice of reason on Western Sahara, analysts argue.
“It would have been better to join at the beginning. We could have been taken high,” commented local political commentator Dr Hoze Riruako.
“There is nothing new to tell here,” opined the leader of the official opposition party and DTA president McHenry Venaani, adding: “This [the decision not to join then] is a great loss of opportunity for a country [that had] a lot to tell, we could have been the first country to tell our good story to the world through APRM.”
Professor Joseph Diescho, the forever-critical voice on Namibian politics, makes reference to the principal stance that Namibia first demonstrated in 1990, on the eve of her independence. Namibia had chose not to invite Israel to the inaugural independence and swearing-in ceremony that saw Namibia’s first elected president, and the Republic’s Founding President Sam Nujoma, take down the colonial flag of apartheid South Africa.
“Had Namibia been consistent in such principles – when Nujoma said Israel could not come to the independence celebration because of its stance on Palestine – Namibia could have today been the champion of Africa’s moral compass,” said Diescho
On 28 January this year President Hage Geingob signed the Memorandum of Understanding of the African Peer-Review Mechanism, making Namibia the 36th Member State of the APRM.
Government has said that Namibia has always supported the APRM, however, at the time of its establishment, Namibia was amongst the countries considered worldwide as good examples of democracy in Africa.
“For this reason, we decided to abstain from joining the APRM, as we did not want to be used as a point of reference against other African countries,” Deputy Prime Minister and international relations minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said this week.
“Through the APRM, Namibia will be able to share experiences, as well as draw lessons from others to achieve high economic growth, eradicate poverty, attain sustainable economic growth, and raise the standard of living of all our people,” she said.
Commendable as that might be, analysts see the timing as too late. “Why would you want to be second to others? It could have added to our ratings,” says Hoze.
Hoze opines that Namibia should have joined then, “at a time we were being hailed as best for our smooth transition of power, unlike other countries where the first presidents were forced to leave power.”
However, he says it is good that Namibia has finally joined. “It is high time we joined.”
Venaani – who makes a point of saying he has been on record calling for Namibia to sign up to the APRM since the presidency of Nujoma, Hifikepunye Pohamba, and when Geingob was prime minister – says the argument currently being advanced, as to why Namibia chose not to join then, “is shallow.” “Now we are ten years behind,” he says.
Further, Venaani points out that Namibia could have given support to New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) when it started crumbling and before it disappeared altogether from the discourse.
Diescho concurs, saying NEPAD looked good, with then South Africa’ president Thabo Mbeki as its champion. That is until things in South Africa went south and NEPAD lost momentum “because there was no other country to champion it. Namibia could have been that country,” he says.
The problem he says is that Namibia tends to shoot itself in the foot on matters that concern the continent.
“We had the SADC tribunal, which would have been our local ICC (International Criminal Court), yet we dismissed it because of our close friendship with our neighbours. We chose friendship over principles. SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) could never have acted in unison as did ECOWAS (Economic Community of Western African States) on The Gambia, because we have no chief or the priests who champion our principles,” says Diescho.
Namibia tends to sell herself short, he emphasises, adding that the country has all the resources and instruments in place but has no ideological principle for what it stands for. “We have no champion for our cause. Why do we stand where we stand?”
The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is a mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the African Union (AU) as a self-monitoring mechanism. It was founded in 2003.
The mandate of the APRM is to encourage conformity in regard to political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards, among African countries and the objectives in socio-economic development within the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
Meanwhile Nandi-Ndaitwah has this week said that Namibia’s input into the international agenda is highly recognised. She pointed out that during the 28th Assembly of the AU, President Geingob was nominated as a Board Member of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), representing the Southern African Region.
Geingob was also nominated as one of the ten Champions for education, science and technology in Africa, representing the Southern African Region together with the President of Malawi.
“In our quest to promote regional integration and infrastructure development, President Hage Geingob, has accepted an invitation to become one of the Champions on the continent to promote infrastructure development in Africa,” she said.
At the same time, Namibia submitted a consolidated proposal to the NEPAD-PICI Technical Committee consisting of the following projects, which were accepted: Katima Mulilo Railway-Line Development Project, the Baynes Hydro-power Project, the Trans-Kalahari Railway-Line Development Plan and the Trans-Orange River Highway and Rail.
“It is therefore expected that Namibia will be formally admitted to the PICI during the AU Summit in July 2017. The participation of our President in these institutions creates an opportunity for Namibia to benefit from these regional projects,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah.
Further Namibia chairs the AU Ministerial Committee to oversee the implementation of AU Agenda 2063. Our country is also a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Working Group.
On Western Sahara
Meanwhile political commentator Professor Joseph Diescho has applauded Namibia’ stance on Western Sahara, saying “it is good for Namibia.”
“The stance [on Western Sahara’ independence] is a principle matter for Namibia as a child of international solidarity,” he says.
This week Deputy Prime Minister and international relations minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said that the admission of the Kingdom of Morocco into the African Union (AU), “does not change in anyway Namibia’s position on the right [of Western Sahara] to self-determination as enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the AU.”
Morocco was recently admitted back into the African Union, after decades of being out in the cold, and despite its continued occupation of Western Sahara which it does not recognise as an independent state.
“Namibia expects the Kingdom of Morocco, as a member of the AU to fully comply with the principles, values and obligations enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the AU and relevant United Nations resolutions, calling for the unconditional holding of a free and fair referendum, to allow the Saharawi people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah.
She reiterated that Namibia supports the unity of Africa and remains committed to live up to the pledge made by Africa’s founding fathers to ensure the total liberation of the continent.
“Our position on the right to self-determination and independence of the people of Western Sahara has been clear and consistent. We believe this right to be indivisible,” she emphasised.
She also revealed that negotiations on the UN Security Council continue, and for Namibia, it is important to ensure that the issue of the reform of the UN Security Council is not reduced to an issue of the aspirant candidate countries, presenting their candidatures for election to any UN body.
“The Security Council is too important an organ to be left to the regular political interests of particular countries.”
“It is against this background, that Namibia reaffirmed its commitment to the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, on the modalities for the identification of Africa’s representation in the Council, to be solely left in the purview of the African Union,” she said.
In addition to the UNSC Reform, Namibia co-chaired the Committee on the Revitalization of the work of the United Nations General Assembly. Namibia has been co-chairing this committee for two years and its work has indeed optimised and streamlined the activities of the UNGA.
On the issue of the International Criminal Court, Nandi-Ndaitwah said Namibia “is still a member and as such has not withdrawn ratification of the Rome Statute.”
At the recent AU Summit, the AU member states adopted an ICC Withdrawal Strategy, as Africa’s position on the ICC. Namibia’s position has always been that countries have the right to withdraw from the ICC, provided that there are strong judicial institutions and systems at the national level in all AU Member States.
“While aware that Namibia can effect meaningful change through the Rome statute, Namibia supports the collective withdrawal as a principle, fully cognizant of the fact that it is duty bound to follow the procedures as dictated by its own domestic laws,” she said.