In 1997, Nelson Mandela decided to go to Libya for an official state visit. The US State Department said it would be “disappointed” if he went to the country, which was believed by the West to be sponsoring terrorism.
Mandela’s reply was simple and straightforward. He said, “How can they have the arrogance to dictate to us who our friends should be?”
Mandela is without doubt Africa’s most revered leader in Western circles, but from time to time he caught his admirers in that part of the world by surprise when he went against their aspirations. Apart from the October 1997 visit to Libya, he also visited Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, to the chagrin of his worshippers in London and Washington.
To the screaming headlines of Western condemnation, Mandela reminded his detractors that during South Africa’s hour of need – when powerful nations were called upon to condemn the oppression of black people by the racist minority white regime – it was Castro’s Cuba, hardly the most powerful nation in the world, that responded affirmatively.
Today Namibia faces a diplomatic conundrum. The country made international headlines all week for its reported bilateral ties with North Korea, which has been widely berated for its apparent nuclear armaments programme and the firing of a missile over Japan this week.
Yet we should not lose sight of the fact that the only country to have dropped nuclear bombs on Japan is the US, and those countries are strong trade partners today.
Unlike its Western critics, North Korea has no history of invading other countries and the casual observer cannot help but notice that US missiles are flying daily over the skies of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen.
Moreover, despite the well documented human rights violations of the Saudi regime at home and abroad, the US remains a committed trade partner of Saudi Arabia and also of nuclear armed Israel – which has never allowed inspection of its facilities. So, why the double-standard?
The fact is: in Namibia’s darkest hour, when apartheid repression was at its climax and black natives were condemned to slave-like conditions in their own country, it was Pyongyang, and not New York or Paris, that heeded our cry.
During the Namibian war of independence, North Korea provided significant support for the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), Swapo’s then armed wing. That country provided material aid to PLAN, and from 1965 and onwards many Swapo members went to Pyongyang to receive military training.
In contrast, the West, which today professes to be the greatest defenders of human rights to have ever walked the earth, provided support to the racist regime, so that the oppression and exploitation of blacks could continue unabated.
To now suggest that we, a sovereign State, may not do business with North Korea, no matter how clean and above-board such business is, is sheer provocation and borders on outright interference.
The commercial activities Namibia engages in with North Korea have nothing to do with the purported nuclear programmes of Pyongyang, which is the mother of growing tension between that country and its Western military rivals.
The contracts Namibia had with North Korea were in the area of infrastructure development, such as the construction of the Namibian State House, the Independence Museum and the defence ministry’s headquarters in Windhoek.
Namibia is now under all sorts of pressure from the West, using the UN to create an impression of legitimacy, to sever ties with North Korea. The flimsy excuse being peddled is that doing business with North Korea beefs up that country’s financial abilities to develop weapons of mass destruction.
What a farce!
Just five months ago, every single African citizen who applied for a visa to attend the African Global Economic and Development Summit in California, USA, was rejected.
The three-day conference at the University of Southern California (USC), typically brings delegations from across Africa to meet with business leaders in the US in an effort to foster partnerships. In other words, Africans are being prevented from doing business in the West – and now in the East.
These unscrupulous attempts are designed to keep the continent of Africa at the bottom of the capitalist foodchain. They want us to remain at the mercy and behest of Western donors, who demand access to our natural resources in exchange for handouts.
The West has absolutely no business subscribing to us who we should do business with, especially when such business is not confined to the exchange of dangerous commodities.
Those who have a bone to chew with Pyongyang must take their battles far from us. We’re not a party to whatever disagreements they have and the Namibian government has a developmental mandate to fulfil towards its citizens.