Reporter 402, 19 May 1997


Namibia PM researches struggle for freedom

The Politics Department is adding a new student to its ranks – one with more practical experience than most. Hage Geingob has been Prime Minister of Namibia since the country won independence from South Africa in 1990 and is to study for a PhD on the very process he was instrumental in – the transition from apartheid and colonialism to democracy and social justice.

Namibia's fight for independence is matched by Geingob's struggle for education. As a young man he escaped his peasant background, literally, by walking to Botswana from his homeland – a journey of five days without food or water.

He won a scholarship to the US in 1964, and was a SWAPO representative to the United Nations from 1964-71 while he took his first and second degrees in New York. Geingob is used to mixing political and academic life. He says he has had "a long walk to education" and is continuing that walk – to Leeds.

He has been awarded several honorary doctorates but now says he wants to "earn one of his own." He began a PhD but had to abandon it when he was called back to Namibia to set up a training programme for refugees. Many of them are now civil servants guiding the country through its new era of independence.

Now, at the age of 56, the Prime Minister is optimistic about his country's future. Namibia has a policy of national reconciliation and looking to the future rather than the past. Black and white are living peacefully "under one roof", and he feels the country has set a blueprint for South Africa to follow.

By putting his personal experiences into a structured academic framework, Geingob hopes other countries will learn from Namibia's past. The contact was made through Professor Lionel Cliffe who has taught in Namibia and co-authored a book on the country, and is delighted at the opportunity. The Politics Department has had a long interest in southern Africa through the African Studies Unit and will continue to make trips to the Namibian university at the capital Windhoek. Tutorials will take place there and also over the Internet. Geingob chose Leeds after being courted by a number of UK universities.

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