14.09.2017

A memorable event: Helmut Kohl visited Namibia 22 years ago


So far, Helmut Kohl is he only German chancellor who has visited Namibia. Upon his arrival at Hosea Kutako Airport east of Windhoek on 14 September 1995 he was greeted by Prime Minister Hage Geingob and received with military honours.

Chancellor Kohl at the reception on the evening of his arrival in Windhoek. Behind him are Namibia’s first president, Sam Nujoma, and the German ambassador to Namibia, Dr Hanns Heinrich Schumacher.

Helmut Kohl effortlessly interacted with the public at the Mole in Swakopmund.

“If Helmut Kohl hadn’t visited our school it would have been impossible for us to go ahead with the costly extension work”, says Hanjo Böhme. In his capacity as chairman of the school board of the Deutsche Höhere Privatschule Windhoek (private German school) he welcomed the German chancellor on the morning of 15 September 1995 and had a chance to get to know him a little. “I was amazed at how easy-going Helmut Kohl was during our conversation. I handed him a letter which he later answered, addressed to me in person. The letter is now kept in the school’s archives,” the former chairman of the school board remembers, adding that the DHPS owes a lot to Helmut Kohl.

It’s been 22 years since the German chancellor visited the school. The occasion did not fail to impress the students either. Stefan Gaugler, who in 1995 was 15 years old and in grade 8, recalls that the chancellor’s visit was a sensation at the school. “I was deeply impressed by his speech and also by the authority which he exuded. He came across as enormous, in a positive sense and not only because he was a large person (1.93 metres). Powerful as he was, he was nevertheless very pleasant and had a great sense of humour”, says Gaugler, the son of a farmer and now a farmer himself.

So far, Helmut Kohl is the only German chancellor who has visited Namibia. He arrived for a working visit on 14 September 1995 and was greeted at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako Airport by President Hage Gottlieb Geingob who was the Prime Minister at that time. From the airport Kohl proceeded directly to the old State House, a building from the German colonial era, for a meeting with Sam Nujoma, Namibia’s first president. After that, accompanied by Geingob, he walked up the road to Christuskirche and through the Tintenpalast gardens to the prime minister’s office next to the parliament building. In the evening numerous guests were in attendance at a reception in the conference centre of the Safari Hotel in Windhoek.

On the following day Kohl’s schedule started with the aforementioned visit to the German private school (DHPS). Next was a tour of the Greenwell Matongo Project in Katutura where low-cost houses were being built with German aid. After that Kohl and his entourage flew to Walvis Bay for a private engagement, followed by an excursion to Swakopmund. Kohl visited the museum, the fishery research institute and the salt works. He was particularly keen on seeing the oyster farm at the salt works. The delegation returned to Windhoek the same day, Kohl and Prime Minister Geingob met for another round of talks at the airport and then it was time to board the German air force jet and head back north.

Time was in extremely short supply at the salt works north of Swakopmund. As the delegation arrived at the white hills of salt, Kohl called on everyone to assemble around Jürgen Klein and listen to him explaining the salt production process. Klein had just a few minutes to give some details on how salt is removed from sea water, how oysters are cultivated in the ponds and why their flavour is particularly good, and that guano is also gathered in the same place. “When the visitors had to leave Kohl was adamant that he still wanted to see the oyster farm. He stood at the door of the tour bus they were travelling with and urged his delegation to get in at the double. This in particular impressed my staff. They never thought that a German chancellor would drum up his people like that”, Klein said in early July after the death of former chancellor Helmut Kohl. Back in 1995 Klein gave a bag of fresh oysters to Kohl to take with him but he never heard whether the oysters were eaten that day in Namibia or made the trip to Germany. Klein says that his company didn’t profit from Kohl’s visit in any way – it didn’t result in any new business. 

Helmut Kohl, born on 3 April 1930, was the chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998. He passed away on 16 June this year.

Dirk Heinrich      


Stay up-to-date with our monthly 'Gondwana Tracks' Newsletter