The 55th plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday paid tribute to late president Hage Geingob, celebrating him as a visionary leader who had the best interests of Namibia and Africa at heart.
Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said the late Geingob was a man with a remarkable presence and ability to connect with everyone he met.
“It is no exaggeration to say that president Geingob dedicated his life to his country.
Many of us will never forget the image of him kissing Namibian ground on his return after years in exile from his early years of activism during Namibia’s independence struggle and against the rank cruelty of apartheid, to his living role creating the Namibian constitution, which has equality and human rights,” expressed Guterres.
He said his years of service first as Prime Minister and then as president of Namibia shaped him. This also shaped Namibia, as he promoted gender equality, championed clean energy, and formed a strong alliance of international solidarity embodied in the United Nations.
Guterres said today, values which Geingob stood for are under attack around the world. International law is being flouted, rights are being trampled upon, authoritarianism is on the rise, and inequality is rampant. “As we pay tribute to the memory of president Geingob, let us commit to honouring the values that he stood for by fighting racism, misogyny and injustice, by standing up for human rights and working to build a more equal world in which no one is left behind,” he continued.
A representative from the Asia Pacific group, UAE deputy UN ambassador Mohammed Abushahad, said president Geingob was a visionary leader who fought for the independence of Namibia, and remained a tireless advocate for the advancement and well-being of its people. “We will remember his excellency getting up as a leader who pushed for Africa on the world stage, and a strong proponent of international cooperation and diplomacy, who made an indelible mark on the tapestry of international relations. We reaffirm our commitment to uphold the values and principles of unity and cooperation that president Geingob championed, and pledge to continue working towards a world of peace, stability and prosperity,” stated Abushahad.
USA representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she met the late Geingob over a decade ago in Kenya, when they happened to sit next to each other at an event. “While I don’t remember much about that event, I do remember being immediately taken by the then Prime Minister’s signature charisma and idealism. We were just making small talk when he paused, and he said without a hint of irony ‘you know I’m going to be the next president of Namibia’. I laughed, and told him how many times I had heard that phrase uttered across Africa by so many wannabe presidents,” she recalled.
Thomas-Greenfield added that the late leader did his part in reducing economic inequality, widening the social safety net, improving public health, and fighting against climate change – all while modelling the values of respect and reconciliation for his country and for people across the continent.
She said: “It is notable though unsurprising that president Geingob died as he lived, with transparency and courage. Geingob was a freedom fighter, and a respected leader; he was an African icon and a farmer. He planted, ploughed and prayed for rain, and believed in the power of farmers to fight food insecurity and lift our communities.”
Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations, Neville Gertze, said president Geingob’s early life was dedicated to activism, first within the country where he served as a teacher and later during his 27 years in exile, where he championed the cause of Namibia’s independence on the premise of freedom, justice and self-determination.
“The United Nations was a central tenet to the execution of his service to humanity during his time as a small pool representative to the United Nations and the Americas. President Geingob worked tirelessly to have Swapo recognised as the soul and authentic representative of the Namibian people, resulting in its observer status granted through General Assembly resolution 31/152 of 1976,” he highlighted. Gertze said Geingob spent no less than 14 years walking the corridors of the UN, fighting for recognition of the plight of the people of Namibia.
“As a former teacher, president Geingob had a deep passion for education, which is reflected in his pursuit for knowledge and his dedication to preparing technocrats at the United Nations Institute for Namibia with the requested governance and public administration skills,” he stated.
Gertze continued that in anticipation of Namibia’s impending independence, this spoke to his visionary leadership. Hence, after 27 years in exile, the late president returned to Namibia to implement UN Security Council resolution 435, laying the ground for UN-supervised elections in November 1989.
The president of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis from Trinidad and Tobago, said president Geingob was a towering figure in history and politics, and a beacon of leadership on the African continent.
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“As the third president of independent Namibia, the legacy of the late president is indelibly arched in the history of his nation’s liberation struggle, and the ensuing journey of freedom, democracy and prosperity,” he observed. Francis said his remarkable life journey epitomised true resilience, dedication and unwavering commitment to the ideals of justice and equality, while his leadership was characterised by inclusivity, pragmatism and a deep belief in the power of dialogue and cooperation. As chair of the constituent assembly, Geingob played a pivotal role in drafting Namibia’s constitution, laying the foundation for a democratic and pluralistic society throughout his tenure as Namibia’s first Prime Minister and later as President.
At the UN, Geingob is credited to have agitated relentlessly for multilateralism in recognition of the importance of international cooperation and understanding in addressing global challenges.
Francis stated that this is “a contribution for which we will be eternally grateful, and his impassioned advocacy for sustainable development and renewable energy earned him admiration and respect on the world stage.” – firstname.lastname@example.org