Hage Geingob, president of the Republic of Namibia, joins Michelle D. Gavin, managing director of the Africa Center and former U.S. ambassador to Botswana, to discuss development goals and strategies for the future of Namibia. Geingob provides his perspective on the nation's influence in the African region, its political priorities, and the challenges it faces going forward.
GAVIN: (In progress)—in service to his country, both as part of Namibia’s struggle for independence and one of the most prominent and thoughtful thinkers about what prosperity would look like for an independent Namibia.
And so I want to welcome him here to the Council, to welcome him back to New York. And the president knows this city very, very well, having studied at Fordham as an undergraduate, I believe received your master’s degree in international relations from The New School and spent several years with the United Nations at the Secretariat as well.
So he knows us well and is fresh and rested and hopefully invigorated by our beautiful spring weather. And with that, I turn it over to you, Mr. President.
GEINGOB: Thank you very much. I recognize old friends like Maurice Tempelsman. Yes, we were friends for a long time and I still see him being active. There is Kramer (sp) also, I see, and old, old friends, you know, many of them. So thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be here to again exchange views with friends and also people who advise governments in policy matters and so on.
As you know, Namibia is a young democracy still, but indeed a true democracy in the true sense of the word. Our governance architecture is in place. We have regular free and fair elections. Our macroeconomic architecture is also good. Our banking system is working. We get good ratings from rating agencies, several B—positive but now a little bit of some problems maybe.
But I just want to jump to social architecture, where we have problems because we have a good constitution, good policies, but people now want to benefit from those good policies. They would like to eat. They would like to have accommodation—decent, at least, accommodation, not luxury but at least people want to live in something that is livable.
And then also the thing of peace. Democracy is good. It’s a better system because even if you are quarreling—I keep on saying you don’t have to go to war when we are in a democratic dispensation. So I tell people, yes, make noise, complain. The moment you keep quiet I will know there’s something wrong. And that I learned from your country when I was student during the tough days of black power struggle. There was war here.
One professor at Lincoln said, people, 30 years ago were the black people better off or worse off? Then we said, so what? Then he says, they were worse off but they were so quiet; why we’re not angry that time? Then we couldn’t answer that. He said, you know—do you know, people, when people have hope and they see a light at the end of a tunnel, they make noise. So they are hopeful.
So I always use that example in my country that people are now so angry. They want things done. Sometimes I say, is it because I’m now the president or what is it? But then I think it’s because they are hopeful. So I tell them, the moment you keep quiet I’ll be worried, so demand, demand.
So we go by legacy. We have legacy of founding president, who was a freedom fighter who led us in the struggle and took us back; reconciled people who were warring, white, black, different tribes divided by bantustans, put them together, and had a peaceful transition, building on his legacies. And then we got another president whom we call stabilizer, a cool cat, very calm.
And then they say, now the person who comes must be active and he must bring about prosperity. That’s a most difficult task. And how do I do that? I took all of last year with my team to kind of have a rallying point. How do I wait? People 26, 25 years, some are losing hope, so to energize them again so come up with slogans like: building the Namibian house where we’re going to all live together peacefully using bricks, our different tribes and races. It was beautifully painted, you know, and presented and it’s now the talk, Namibian house. And I said, no one must feel left out from that house—one Namibia.
So those things have reignited. Now implementation. So we came up with a plan that is called Harambee Prosperity Plan. Some say, why “harambee”? That’s a Swahili word. Why not our own language worked? We said, yes, we have so many languages. If I were to choose my language you would have said, oh, we are left out. So I took a neutral language, Swahili language, African—but African too, so therefore Harambee, meaning pulling to get in the same direction. So that’s what we are now implementing.
I have my experts here. My economic adviser was present. I have also a group who will participate. I don’t talk alone. We live in teamwork and that is the way we do it. Everywhere I go I let them talk. After all, people paid for them to be here, so they must also work so that I can say they are also delivering.
So I have the—my wife, she’s also active, a business lady. Then I have the deputy prime minister, who is our foreign relations and cooperation person. Then I have the economic—minister of economic affairs and planning. Then I have the minister of environment because we are going to sign tomorrow the agreement, so he is here for that. But Namibia is a country where we have good conservation policies so he can also pitch in. Our two ambassadors, and Dr. Steytler, my economic adviser, the wife of our ambassador. He used to be on my staff. I sent him here to Washington when I was the minister of trade—a trade representative.
So I have that big team, and it will be good that we can do that. Thank you very much.
Well, thank you, Mr. President. I think we already get a flavor of the energy that you’re bringing to the project. And you have made poverty alleviation, poverty elimination a huge priority for Namibia going forward, but I want to draw you out on something you and I had a chance to talk a little bit about before we joined everyone.
You’re building the Namibian house collectively with your countrymen and women, and trying to build this prosperous future. And this is—you have tremendous human resources in your country, clearly. You have natural resources, but help in a building project is always a good thing, be it in the form of assistance or trade and investment. And can you talk to us a little bit about how sometimes Namibia’s success and Namibia’s status as upper-middle-income country can make it challenging to access some of the assistance that might make the road a bit smoother or the journey a bit faster?
GEINGOB: Yes. I used to argue with my colleague here when he was a banker, when he was a governor of the Bank, when I was raising that issue of the higher-middle-income countries’ status: Why are you against being a rich country? Just make it work. Yes, it’s true.
And before I say that, let me express my thanks to President Bush administration. During the time that Millennium Challenge Account was being conceived we were left out, Botswana and Namibia, because we are rich, but they made an exception to include us. And I must tell you, that’s one project that has made a mark in development in Namibia when it comes to schooling, when it comes to actually helping the conservation—excellent. Libraries built—you know, big libraries that you can—people—children go and study there. You can see there is something that has been left.
And we were one of the countries which implemented it about 95 percent or so, and if not more. So we are pleased for that, but unfortunately it stopped. So that status makes it that—because of success, it makes it that we don’t get any grants or soft loans and so on. And we came from a very bad situation—apartheid colony where blacks were completely left out educationally, politically, and otherwise. And when we come from that background we are told, since you are rich you can’t get any help. That is not fair.
And if countries—I don’t want to say it to expose them, but we are making a joke out of frustration: If you mismanage you are rewarded. If you have piled up debts, the debts are written off, you get loans—soft loans, grants. But if you are successful trying to manage your own affairs properly, they say you are rich. Some members are closing down and say, we’re going to poorer countries. We say, wait. And I had to take one of them and say, are you going to close your embassy in America—(chuckles)—because they were trying to give (my chief ?) an excuse to say, since you are rich we are going to a poorer country we can help.
So that is not fair, really. But it also made us maybe to be independent, maybe to rely on our own resources, to maybe manage them properly and therefore to be transparent, accountable, and depend on our own resources and manage them properly, both human and material resources. So it’s true. It’s not fair. I think for a country which came from apartheid, white-black situation where white people are, because of history, rich and blacks are poor and left out.
Now, I was at the World Bank for some short time. They told me, yes, your country is rich. Your problem is that of redistribution of that wealth. And I said, are you saying I must go and grab it from the whites and give it to the blacks? Are you going to be happy with that because you know there is this inequality? Ah, yes, maybe we are but a few countries who have highest coefficiency—Gini coefficiency. And we have brought it down. We are working with that, but it’s still—and you see all these countries where you have this black-white situation, even the United States. For an advanced country it’s still high, 4—about 4, you see? And we are 5 now, 5-something, but we were 6—no, we were 7. We brought it down.
So that is what you have inherited. So although materially the country is rich resource-wise, but when you look at people, blacks-white, blacks in African countries: poor. And therefore, those who are poor have help from other countries, but we are told we are rich. And that is very serious. If we didn’t manage Namibian reconciliation—being a small country, we’re not talk about. We came before President Mandela. South Africa whites were coming to my office to talk to me: How did you manage it that black and whites—and ours was a worse situation because of lack of education.
Separation was complete, so to say. South Africa, they were still mingling at Cape Town University and so on at academic level and so on, but ours was a complete separation. But we took those people—and not only white-black. There’s also division among our own tribes. The bantustans, you are this tribe, you go there. And we took those people, put them together, have reconciliation, and manage everything properly. And South Africa was helped by that, that former terrorists can be trusted. They can create a very democratic situation where all Namibians, all people are respected, are welcome.
That’s what we are talking about. We are building a Namibian house. We have different ethnic groups, races. The bricks that we are using are our races and colors, and laws we are passing in parliament are that glue that is putting us together. When you finish or you plaster it, you paint, you no longer can identify individual tribes or race. That’s a Namibian house I’m talking about. That’s what we are building and I think we are making progress.
GAVIN: That’s fascinating—especially considering how much attention there is in this political cycle here in the United States to income inequality—to think about the experience in Namibia.
Now, I want to follow up on what you were talking about in terms of the example that Namibia set for South Africa, and really a broader question about how does a country like Namibia—quite young; really by most metrics extraordinarily successful—how does a country like Namibia, though, that is small in population, be influential regionally and globally? Is it enough to lead by example?
I note, and I’m sure many others in the room have noted, your own example. You and the first lady have publicly disclosed your assets. You’ve insisted on your minister doing the same. Your predecessor was noted for emphasis on accountably and good governance as well, won the Ibrahim Prize. Is it enough to lead by example? Or does a voice like Namibia’s need to be heard more in regional and global fora to tackle some of these other problems and to present an alternative to the vision of some countries on the continent where you do have leaders who’ve been in place for decades?
GEINGOB: Yes, when you’re a small country it’s difficult, even if you have good ideas. I make a joke—I made a joke once when we are looking for a Security Council seat. I like to make jokes sometimes. Then we think we must get two big countries. Nigeria and South Africa are possible candidates. So I say when we are talking, I say, you must also be careful; we should also think of neutral smaller country because wisdom is not only confined to big powers. We may be small but we went to the same schools, so we may be the ones who can contribute more by being neutral, knowing we are weak and even less interested. But that is a joke. It’s just how it works. It will go to bigger countries.
Yes, Namibia is respected in Africa, maybe because we have been in exile for too long, working with people they know already, U.N. Some would say we—Kramer (sp) will know that we—(inaudible)—the United Nations. We were having a council for Namibia, working with others. We are definitely respected, and we are also resourced. Investors don’t come these days because of good governance per se; they also come for resources.
So if you have resources like uranium, the things that people are looking for—right now I will tell you, after my inauguration the invitation list to me is unique that I’m invited to pay a state visit will start from China, Russia, France. Those are all uranium-connected countries. So these days everybody pays attention to us because of resources we have.
And also in AU we have standing. Our president—(inaudible)—in formation of OAU. So we are actually known in Africa. We know African leaders. And I was asked, again first, to go to Brazzaville for inauguration of President Nguesso, and you could see that I was the only English-speaking person. But that opportunity is there and people are asking to consult. So we are—we are recognized.
But how do we do that? Example of good governance. Good governance—effective governance, I call it—and service delivery, first leading by example, a (declaration ?) was done with PriceWaterhouse. Some people came from here and they prepared a paper for me that I could release: Namibia must be a center for ethics, and you must now invite the leaders from Africa to have—(inaudible).
“Hey, don’t go there.” Africa, there is respect for elders and so on. How do I—first, I am so new as a president. And many people think I’ve very young, but I’m older than many of them, by the way, some of the presidents, but they all think that I’m younger than them, and I take it that way. And how do I invite, as a young person, older people to come and lecture them? That’s not how we do it. But if you live by example, example is like keeping time. Small things.
When I was appointed to the Cabinet I had to ask CVs from ministers. They first thought I was trying to interfere in their business. There are resistance. The CVs, then trying to match the skills with the position they’re going to hold. Then, after that, appointed them contract, management—I mean, the performance contracts. Again, these are new things, then to say why is this man trying to dictate to us, and so on? And then I go in and I’m telling them it’s for I have to deliver now. Our task is to deliver. Others were setting up the stage, the foundation for peace, unity, democracy. But democracy, now, people don’t eat democracy. They want food, shelter, so therefore you must to enhance all of us so that can work in deliverance.
Time-keeping. If my Cabinet meeting is to start 9:00, it must start 9:00. The first time ministers will come in maybe late, they saw me and the second time they are there 9:00 sharp. The meeting starts; 1:00 we go out, and then to go and work.
And then involving the people. Town hall meetings concept I copied from you people. And I went to all 14 regions. Many have ordinary people sitting there for four or five hours, people talking, talking, and then also other business people. And so I engaged them—engaged people. But I’m not alone—(inaudible)—them. They all talk, because if I fail to explain (the cold economics to them ?), and then come up with the plan that we are calling Harambee plan.
Now, that, it went through. Africa—first Kenyans liked it because we are using their Swahili word. East Africans say, oh, that’s very good. And then that then is now going around. So that kind of things are small things, but you recognize—and you must be humble also. We are very respectful to elders, to senior people. As I said, African leaders, I behave like I am the youngest. But almost, except for a few, most of them I’m older than them. But they were longer in their office; therefore they are senior to me.
So, yes, Namibia will still make headway. We are just starting.
GAVIN: Indeed. It’s easy to forget how young the country is. And it’s also young demographically, like so much of Africa. Over half the population I think, of Namibia, is under the age of 25. And so then most Namibians were born after independence. And as you say, what they want is—
GEINGOB: We call them “born-frees.” (Laughter.)
GAVIN: Indeed, the born-frees—just as in South Africa, the born-frees. And the challenge of meeting the demands of the born-frees, right, who are exposed to the same images of wealth and prosperity on social media that any young person here is, have the same aspirations for their future, brings me back to this question about poverty alleviation and creating new economic opportunity. And I guess a couple parts to my question.
First, do those young people—do they participate in these town halls? Is that how you hear from them? Is that the mechanism? Or are they finding new means of political expression? And then, you know, when you’re looking to solve the big problem—the job creation imperative, the economic future of the country, given that foreign assistance is largely not available because of Namibia’s status, trade and investment—the theory of the case, right, is that the private sector should fill that gap; trade and investment should fill that gap. Where is that happening and where is it not?
I know there’s significant Chinese investment, certainly in Namibia—I believe more than 40 Chinese firms operating, bringing in—according to an article I recently read—some 4.6 billion U.S. dollars in revenue annually. Are you seeing the same kind of aggressive investment strategy from other economic powers?
GEINGOB: Yes, they should. We have a slogan that I coined: Namibia is a child of international solidarity, midwifed by United Nations, so friend to all, enemy to none. That’s the cornerstone of our foreign policy. And therefore, when we are saying, now, government must look towards those who are needy and provide conducive environment for those who are able to be on their own, using the conducive investment climate we are providing, an invitation is open to everybody.
Canadians are also there in a big way with that kind of—mention the Chinese with the mining sector, uranium, and also copper. I just launched the smelter acid plant in Tsumeb two weeks ago. The Canadians are there. I had a very good, successful visit by congressional delegation led by Senator Flake. We are going to receive a business delegation in May, Ambassador—in May, yeah. And it’s open to everybody.
Chinese factor is a factor—reality in the world. You know, I’m a Waldorf Astoria person. I was put there the first time by Tempelsman and them, and I said, why are they putting me in that place? I discovered it is a cheaper one compared to where I was staying, in the Continental Hotel—far, far cheaper. So we are scared of Waldorf. So can you imagine a landmark like Waldorf Astoria to have been bought by Chinese? Here in New York City. They are everywhere, the Chinese. It’s a big population.
And Namibia of course has to be careful, because I was in Lusaka when the TAZARA road was being built. We never saw Chinese socializing. But of course we have to also give credit that the Chinese have opened up even China. But in Namibia we are already seeing—what do you call them—(inaudible)? You see the children coming. That’s very serious, because if you have a child, you can bring the family to see the children. It’s family. So, being a small population, you have to be careful. One day you will wake up only 1 million, 2 million. (Chuckles.) So it’s a—it’s a reality, but they are saying they have opened up to the world. They are in America. They are everywhere.
But we always say we had a very difficult struggle to free ourselves. Not supported some of the American government, as I said the other day, supported by those former communist countries. We fought to free our country, and I don’t think any of them are going to take over, will exchange that freedom to be recognized by any other person. We tell Chinese that. And I copy that statement that I got from them when I went to China as a minister of trade, because there was nearly a fistfight in Namibia because they were bringing ordinary workers. The unemployment is so high. They were not obeying our laws, the labor laws. So I said, before you are going to fight, let me go and tell them what is happening and what could happen very soon.
So I went there and then they told me—you know, and I saw sort of Americans there and I said, oh, comrades, what’s happening? Americans are taking over here. They said they have opened up 30 years ago. They are privatizing and they are open. But—that “but” is very important—whoever is here comes on our own terms. So I keep on telling them, don’t forget what you are telling us. When you come to Namibia you must also come on our own terms, and great win-win situation.
And I will not deny that we are happy with some of the investments. First, we don’t eat uranium. We don’t even know—Namibians don’t know what is uranium. Diamonds, some ladies are now wearing it but it’s not something we eat. But somebody must need it who add economic value to it. And China wants to get uranium for whatever reason. I think that I don’t even know—Namibians want to eat. And they come and build a company, a mine in a desert, build a highway there; 2,000 people who were in the streets are housed, with running water and lights. I said, that’s good. That’s investment.
However—however, how do we benefit from that to a great win-win situation—always quoting them. So firstly we agreed your laws must apply, because I told them, if you don’t obey our laws, our labor laws—overtime must be paid. You cannot bring wheelbarrow pushers because of already high unemployment. Therefore, bring only experts, but not to bring who do the ordinary work, and not to compete with retail business, with Namibians that are involved—small people.
So we did all those things. So there is no way we, as a land of the brave—we are not just called “land of the brave” for a joke. We fought South Africa, you know? Even if you compare us with ANC and so forth, we are fighting South African army. So we don’t believe—and are a very proud people. We are saying “the land of the brave” very proud and very maybe (it’s base pride ?). But we are not going to exchange our freedom with anybody else coming to take it. We are very strict and we are—we respect them, they respect us, to tell the truth.
I met the president of China already two times. So respect is there, but we’ve put our case, where we stand. I want to cooperate. And we see there is respect. There is serious respect. And we Africans now believe in that too, not actually we’re taken as small boys who don’t know anything, and so on. I think we want to matter—as we are saying on Namibia’s role, we want to matter in world affairs. And if Chinese can build us up, if the Russians are now coming back to compete with you and they respect me, if President Obama respects that, why not? We’re are actors in this world, small or not.
GAVIN: Clearly, clearly. And the climate change element of your agenda here alone sort of is symbolic of that, right? You’re here, and you’re here in person to underscore the importance of this not just for Namibia but for the world.
Well, at this point I’d like to invite members to join the conversation. Please remember that this meeting is on the record. And if you’d like to ask a question just go ahead and turn your name card to vertical and I’ll do my best. I might not be able to see your name because of the angles, but we’ll soldier on.
And when you’re selected, please do speak into a microphone. State your name and affiliation. And if I could please just ask everyone to keep their question concise. Even at the Council it’s rare to get such a treat to have an opportunity to chat with a head of state, and so we don’t want to lose time delivering a lot of our own remarks.
So with that, why don’t we start with Maurice Tempelsman?
Q: Thank you, Michelle.
Coming back to the Harambee plan, which is a very well-thought-through and comprehensive roadmap, and then moving to what you indicated as being a new president but you bring to this position a rare and unusual combination of qualities, the first one obviously a political knowledge and sensitivity but you’re also blessed with the capacity or reputation of being a terrific administrator.
And that brings to mind a question or point, lens through which a former president of a neighboring country—where Ambassador Gavin used to stay—Festus Mogae, and he was fond of saying: If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Looking at it through that lens, what are your priorities in terms of execution of your Harambee plan?
GEINGOB: Well, as I said—thank you, Maurice. We’ve come a long way. Yes, I sort of learned through that long experience to be a team player. That’s a strong—you know, so I have team.
John, can you—or first I’ve decided on Minister Tom Alweendo. I have the deputy prime minister. So they all must play a role. But let’s start, since you are our planning minister and economic minister.
ALWEENDO: Thank you, Comrade President. Thank you, Comrade President.
Maybe to just start off with what we have—start off by saying, you know, the time has come for, I think, Namibia to do some extraordinary things. Twenty-six years, people are now demanding different things, not more like—you know, yes, we have the peace but now we need to develop prosperity.
But that can only happen if we are going to do certain things, and hence the Harambee plan, which has got, you know, pillars, those seven pillars which we realize that we need to do. You know, we talk about economic transformation. We talk about governance and deliveries. We talk about infrastructure development. Those are all important pillars which we need to embrace, invest in, for us to be able then to develop the prosperity which we need. But that can also only happen with the assistance of our partners.
I mean, earlier on we were talking about, you know, us being an upper-middle-income country and therefore not getting the assistance we—other people are getting. But there is also something I think we can still get from our partners. We talk about, for example, in the Harambee, the economic transformation. That transformation of the economic can take place only if we industrialize. And we have agreed that we need to industrialize.
And Namibia—and not only Namibia, also the whole continent, that transformation through industrialization can only also happen if we start by adding value to the commodities which you all export from the continent. There we can get some assistance from our partners, and that assistance in terms of how we trade—how we’ve been trading all this time.
The value addition we are talking about on the commodities which we export in raw forms, we need to engage the private sector because it’s the private sector naturally that has been the exporters of those raw materials. And by and large, those private sectors are not always African private sectors. It’s private sectors usually from developed nations.
And therefore, we would like to have our partners from those countries to agree with us, to say their multinational companies need to agree to add values to our raw materials. And that’s, I think, where I think we can really get that partnership, that support from the likes of you to encourage those multinationals to play the same role which we want to play by creating prosperity through industrializations and through beneficiation of our commodities.
That is, I think, what I can say about the Harambee. But as I say, there are not only the transformation but there are other pillars like, you know, as I say, deliveries, governance, because without governance—like we talked about earlier on, people do start believing that, yes, these are all possible things we can all do. That is very, very important to have that mindset that says, yes, we can achieve all these big things which we have put ourselves to deliver.
GEINGOB: And—(inaudible)—please, sir.
STEYTLER: Thank you, Comrade President.
Just to the question of Mr. Tempelsman, in terms of priorities the plan is built around four pillars. But if I can single out two priorities that His Excellency has singled out, number one would be to fight corruption. We have declared full-out war on corruption. And therefore, in terms of the first pillar, Maurice, we are targeting to become the most accountable country on the African continent, as measured by the Mo Ibrahim Index. We are also planning to retain our space as the country that’s rated as the freest in terms of price freedom, as measured by Reporters Without Borders. We also want to improve service delivery.
And one priority for us is also to become the most competitive economy in Africa, not just in SADC. We are currently number five but we want to, within a period of four years, say that we are most competitive. And for us to do that we are looking really at a business environment. We would like to streamline business processes, making it easier for a business—the private sector to operate, because the private sector is the ultimate creators of wealth.
Then another key, key priority for the government will be the declaration on poverty, the war on poverty. Now, this is a war that will have to be won over many years, but under the Harambee period we start with hunger poverty and we say that no Namibians should die because of hunger. Then there are also a key priority on vocational, technical education, and also some priorities in the area of infrastructure development.
So these are some of the priorities, Maurice, that I can highlight from the plan. Thank you.
GAVIN: Thank you all so much.
Q: Is this on?
GAVIN: The red light should come on. There we are. Oh, sorry.
Q: Could you explain to us the current relationship of Namibia with the government of North Korea? This has been publicized in the press now and again, and it’s been pointed out that Namibia’s in violation of the U.N. agreements about cooperation with North Korea. Can you give us an explanation of your current position on that?
GEINGOB: Yes, thank you.
As I said, we used to fight apartheid regime after we exhausted all peaceful means. I came here as a young boy in ’64. And then I was made a petitioner at the U.N., begging everybody to help us, to free us peacefully. The United States has relations with South Africa, Israel, Portugal, those who were oppressing our people at that time—bad regimes to me. But because of national interest, you had relations. We’re doing resolutions calling for us to get our independence and human rights. That’s a national interest serving American interests.
So after independence these countries continued to have relations with us. They helped us during the struggle, and therefore we invite them to come and also join us as we are doing even today, to be involved with us to develop the country like any other business asset. Koreans came a long time ago to build the statehouse that we are living in before the sanctions, and that relationship was there. And then we also had to build some structures like the Heroes’ Acre we call it, where people—like you have a—what do you say, a grave you have in Washington—Arlington.
GAVIN: Arlington National Cemetery.
GEINGOB: Arlington, yes. So you have people who have sacrificed their lives during the war and they must be buried properly, or recognized. We have that. We have—(inaudible). They built that. So Koreans were there at that time, before sanctions came. Plus also some monuments. If you go to Namibia, you will only see any structure standing there is German structure, nothing African. But, remember, we had mud huts, so therefore they cannot stand as structures. So you only have these German structure. We’re bringing our own legacy also as people.
And don’t say it’s Chinese or Korean buildings. It is our—we are the ones who, as I say, build this and this. Like, you got your famous Statue of Liberty; it’s a gift from France. It’s not you, but it’s France. So it’s yours, so that’s how we have those structures, since it’s been built by Koreans.
When the sanctions came in, we had to sit down and see, where are we in conflict. Nothing is retroactive, the way I was trained by your universities that were mentioned. The law that was not there when crime was committed is not applicable to that situation. So some of the things that build in our statehouse was done before the sanctions came in. Only sanctions now comprehensive was a recent one of about—is 2006? What is it?
MR./MS. : (Off mic.)
GEINGOB: Yeah. That is the only sanctions that we may be in violation of. We talk to the American ambassador, explain to him, even before I came. We made appointment with the chairman of the—of the Sanctions Committee.
By the way, we should also be careful: Is it the American sanctions or United Nations sanctions? Whose sanction is it?
Q: The United Nations sanctions.
GEINGOB: Oh, United Nations sanction. So we are accountable to the United Nations, not to Americans, OK? (Laughs.) So we are going to see that committee to explain to them. We are just going to report.
And it’s not a question that we are committing a crime. These things are new, whereby they are testing their nuclear weapons. Even Chinese have complained. So, now, that’s a new development. But what they were doing there was not illegal or violating any sanctions. But comprehensive sanctions, it’s just about two months out. And that’s what we are going to discuss with them, how—in fact, we already comply when the one company was listed, or two people who are listed as maybe cover—undercover agents for the regime, we sent them away. So we complied with the sanctions. But the one which is now comprehensive is raising things like the defense headquarters, which was—it started long time ago. So we are going to discuss that with United Nations.
But I’m glad to inform Americans that’s what we are doing.
GAVIN: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. And so, just to clarify, what I understand you to be saying is that it is your position that Namibia is accountable for adhering to United—U.N. agreed-upon sanctions, and this is—this is what the discussion is about.
GEINGOB: Yeah, I told the American ambassador we are a United Nations creation. There is no (way we consent in a way ?) of violating United Nations resolution.
GAVIN: Thank you. Thank you.
I’m sorry, it’s a—it’s my age, and I cannot make—but the woman right in front of me, yes. Thank you so very much. I apologize for that.
Q: (Off mic.) Oh. (Comes on mic.) Mojibau Aldoulou (ph) from Keokome (ph).
My question is about the born-free generation, their aspirations, because how similar and how different are those aspirations from that of the older generation? And especially in terms of education, from what I gather, you know, there is a lot of interest on the part of the government to focus on vocational and technical education. How does this jell with what the youth want and their aspirations?
GEINGOB: Very good question.
Firstly, there is generational gap, I think. We are, who are old-timers, when I’m campaigning, I can go and tell the old people we fought for freedom, you know how bad—how bad it was, and they get—they connect. Youth—my daughter, my kids—don’t know; so what, they may say: I’m unemployed, I want education. The information age people, they are on these things. They don’t care about—we were talking about how bad—how bad it was. That’s not their concern. They are unemployed, they want education, they want high-tech. That’s their concern. So you will be wasting your time if you go and talk to them about how we struggled against South Africa. You lose them.
So even vocational education, which looks like you are taking them back to work with hands, you have to be careful about that. You have to actually talk to them, as I did when I was director of U.N. Institute for Namibia in Lusaka. We had in our organization training—agriculture, management—and we allowed them to register, and there was zero interest in agriculture because they thought agriculture was for blacks who are oppressed, dirty your hands, and so on. So they didn’t register voluntarily.
So I had to have talks with them to say, comrades, you see, we’re going to serve the masses. Yes, yes, yes. What’s the population of Windhoek and other towns I mentioned? It came to about half a million, and Namibia is about one-point-something million. Now, where are the masses? Oh, they’re in the—in the rural areas. Oh, comrades, therefore, agriculture is where they are. That’s how you talk to them. And that thing became oversubscribed, even women. So vocational training is their thing.
I make a joke when I’m talking: Ph.D.s do not run the countries. When we are sitting like this—concrete example: if that air conditioner is out, with my Ph.D., I cannot fix it. So it’s people—and Germany was built by artisans. We have German—we have a lot of Germans out there, so I have to link to that. Germans use their hands, and look at where Germany is. That’s a talk you must give them. Otherwise, you lose them. And they are also getting their social-status degrees; they cannot get jobs. So they are educated, but on the street.
And that’s what I was told about Boko Haram, huh, that President Obama or someone was telling me that—how it started. The guy who was leader was having education, Western education, degree, but he was unemployed. So he says—other guys came and said, you are educated in the Western world, you have education, why are you unemployed? That’s how they say destroy Western education. So same may be true of our young people: they have degrees, but they are unemployed. So it’s a delicate thing.
They are a majority of voters, too, now, very soon. And they are demanding. They are also acting in Namibia, deliberately trying to—what do you call their muscles, to show that they have power. They just went and grabbed the land while I was still campaigning—organized and grabbed the land, and set a deadline of 31st of July the economy was going to go up in flames. And the party was divided. I just became the leader of the party. And people said, don’t talk to them. And first meeting of the—(inaudible)—I had to expel them from the party, but as a president I must talk to them. So I held a meeting with them on the 24th of July last year, six hours talks, allowing them to make their case and sitting with them for six hours. That’s how we preserved. Maybe there could have been a—you could have read in the papers Namibia is up in flames. Small things happen like that, and therefore talk, engage the people.
I told them, look, in democracy, you don’t have to go to war. Bring up things here; we can talk. So the good thing about democracy is a dialogue. Diplomats are telling us, can’t just go to war when diplomacy fails.
So therefore, if you don’t talk to young people, and let them win also. After we had educated them, they had a deadline of 31st of July. So I said, we are going to service the land. After we talked, I said there should be no loser. So let’s say we’re going to service the land from 27th of July up to 5th of August, so you don’t lose. Because if we don’t do it on your date, I won. So let’s say that I just arrange, therefore you also won—your day is included. Great, a winning situation.
But listen to them. They are very nasty. I am also on the Facebook and social media. I just engage them. That’s their dialogue, doing things. And they appreciate, because you are encountering them there, answering things, explaining. And many of them, I may get five nasty tweets, but about 95 percent will support me because I explain the situation. Engage them. Engage them at their level. That’s the social media.
GAVIN: That’s a little free political advice for all of us.
Mr. Nakayama, yes.
Q: President, my is Nakayama, Citigroup.
I have a question about wisdom two countries can share, U.S. and Namibia. Two countries have a challenge. Your country is very heterogeneous, like United States. Under your strong leadership, the country has united. What United States can learn from you or your country about wisdom? And, second, what United States should do to create long-term, strong, sustainable relationship with Namibia to become most important partner to your country?
GEINGOB: Firstly, I must tell you—(laughs)—United States taught me to how to put different people together. As I said, at the time of ’60s, that’s the time of black power. That’s the time of burn, baby, burn. And I also learn in this country that being—having an open society, and during the Vietnam War I used to see professors from Ivy League schools—Princeton—Richard Falk was from Princeton, and I am from Columbia—debating. Coming from South Africa—I mean, Namibia, which isn’t allowing those things, I said, hey, these guys are now debating, disagreeing, and so on. And then you take the Supreme Court. Supreme Court are the one—is the one which has helped blacks, through the rulings of the Court, to create the harmony. So you shouldn’t play down your role. We are also copying from what you have achieved.
And also, what I have learned here is that an open admission, open discussion—a problem we have in Namibia and South Africa is there are some white people who don’t want to think of the past. They think Namibia started to be a country from 21st of March, 1990. So if you talk about the past, they think we are going back to the past, the ugly history. But here, what makes (the movement ?) is everything is discussed. It looks ugly, maybe; people look as they are fighting. But you solve it that way.
So I cannot teach you anything in this country. You taught us. But you also moved farther. (You jumped the ?)—(inaudible)—by having a black president. I mean, that is—you might play it down, but as Africa got independence in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah became the first president—black president, so to say. And black Americans were encouraged, looking up to Africa, that Pan-Africanism started—d’Ivoire, went to Ghana, and so on, started from there. Now, President Obama being the president of the most powerful country also help many Africans that us do proud. If you go to Asia—some of you know Asia—sometimes they’ll be more racial, in a very unique way. But when you walk around as a black man and the American president is also black, it also brings something. So there’s not much I can teach you about that. I think you are doing very well.
I worked here. I—not work, I started here. It was during that time more difficult. But tolerance, things are happening. But, you see, it’s not overlooked. NACCP—I forgot—
GAVIN: NAACP, mmm hmm.
GEINGOB: —was helped by white people. Lawyers were—white people were—during the march in the South, white were killed—three whites were killed. That’s how the whole thing started. So keep it up. Just discuss. You are a great country. I cannot teach you anything about that because you are doing well. Leaning from you.
But, of course, Namibia also had colonial period. South Africa learned from there, too.
In the house I’m talking about, where there is a slogan: no one must feel left out. Not no one must be left out; no one must feel left out, how that person feels. So don’t give the idea of feeling that they are left out. But only if the president was black, how can anybody say blacks are left out? So keep it up.
As for Namibia and United States, very good relations, definitely. Starting also from mandate system is Woodrow Wilson, who said there should be no spoils of war. That’s how the mandate system was established. And when we were at the International Court of Justice, the United States was there with us. We only parted ways when—(inaudible)—how to go about after the Court failed to deliver. Now the U.N. was terminating the mandate of South Africa. That’s where we disagreed, on the modalities how to go about.
So, as I said, Maurice (sp) and them, they have been with us. We go a long way. We have many friends, American friends that we have here. So when we’re in trouble, we’ll call on you. Don’t worry. We are together.
GAVIN: This is advice and a pep talk. (Laughter.)
A: Thank you, President.
GAVIN: Want you here every week. Thank you so much.
You have been very specific about the importance of keeping time, and they are sticklers for this at the Council as well. So we’re supposed to wrap up at seven, so I’m going to ask Tammy (sp), please, to give us the last question, and we’ll all be very concise.
Q: Thank you.
Mr. President, in your State of the Nation address on Harambee, you explained to the country the pillars that Mr. Alweendo—Minister Alweendo discussed, and talked about sub-pillars, and much of the speech was the overview. But you also gave some examples that brought the plan alive in terms of its effects on ordinary Namibians, such as the recruitment and training of unemployed youth to administer food banks in urban areas, and in rural areas to build toilets and to provide sanitation, bringing together—simultaneously addressing the youth unemployment and some of the issues of hunger and need for sanitation and toilets. Could you give just a few more examples of how the Harambee plan in all its overviews can come down to the local level and address the problems of people?
GEINGOB: Tammy (sp) and Reid (sp) are old friends—again, people who have—whom I work with. And they were in Namibia just recently.
So, yes, Harambee plan is really a detailed plan. The youth—there is a specific thing in engaging the youth: vocational training; plus, also, when it comes to—the food bank idea came—I was in a church, and I pick up one lady who is a daughter of one of the icons of the struggle, and I was driving. As we were driving to an outside location—really where blacks are leaving, sorry to say—but there were kids who were sitting, young boys, angry, as we were driving. And I saw them angry, and then I dropped her. She took me around to the houses, looked super angry. (Inaudible)—when they’re angry, (woman ?) said, yes. Then the idea of the food bank came from there, that I said, look, we can use—(inaudible)—principle of having stage committees. Get those boys who are angry and give them responsibility. When they are working to clean up, first, that street, to maintain security there—because people are—women have been killed and so on, so—by those people—maintain that security there, then distribute food, and so on. From the food—we’re just kind of elaborating, not just put in terms—it will be—we cited from other examples.
So idea is to engage them. (Inaudible)—but is to really engage them because they are a majority. And if they are unemployed, we are creating future revolutionaries.
GAVIN: That’s a very powerful message about the importance of inclusion. And I hope everyone will join me in thanking President Geingob. It’s an incredible opportunity to get to hear from you in such a conversational setting, and I suspect that there are—there’s more than one person around the table mentally making plans to visit Namibia and learn more, or return to Namibia and be delighted once again. So thank you so very much. We wish you all the best into the future. (Applause.)
GEINGOB: Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)