Once in a hundred years! A ceremony to befit a king
Kings, queens, traditional authorities, opposition leaders and thousands of Namibians from various ethnic groups gathered at Omhedi, close the Angolan border, last weekend to pay tribute to King Mandume yaNdemufayo in one of the most important reconciliatory and commemorative events of the last century.
Thousands of people, including our founding father Dr Sam Nujoma, former president Dr Hifikepunye Pohamba and acting president Dr Hage Geingob, joined in the unifying spirit of the event. The vibrant crowd remained transfixed through the ceremony and scorching heat, commemorating the death of King Mandume. An important part of the four-day ceremony was the unveiling of a statue of the legendary Mandume, who died on 6 February 1917.
Mandume is remembered for his resistance to the colonial forces, his strong value system as well as the reforms he implemented to unite his people. These included the protection of women and the rights of the poor.
He was little more than a child in 1911 when he ascended to the throne at 17 after the death after his uncle Nande, who had no sons to succeed him. It was a tumultuous time in the north with a kingdom split by borders drawn up by European powers; a history of war with the Portuguese in Angola where three quarters of the Oukwanyama people lived; conflict with the Union of South Africa soldiers who occupied Namibia in WWI and a people struggling after years of drought.
At the end of his final battle, Mandume is believed to have gallantly taken his own life, rather than fall into enemy hands, ending his short reign of only 6 years. His body is said to have been taken into Angola and his head buried at the Owambo Campaign Memorial in Windhoek.
Today, the Oukwanyama kingdom is once again recognised, ruled by Ohamba yOvakwanyama Nelumbu (Queen of Ovakwanyama).
Namibia has come a long way in the last hundred years. It has fought for democracy, gained its independence and ushered in an era of unity and peace. The centenary commemoration is a tribute not only to Mandume, but for all those who sacrificed their lives and paved the way for freedom.