Namibia’s president dies months before elections

NAMIBIA’S President Hage Geingob died at 82 on Sunday, February 4, in Windhoek, the country’s capital, following a battle with cancer.

His death occurred months before the country’s elections, expected to be held in November 2024, which would signal the end of his tenure as president.

In a statement via the official X handle of the Namibian presidency on Sunday, the  country’s Acting President Nangolo Mbumba, disclosed that the cabinet would convene to make necessary state arrangements following his principal’s death.

“It is with utmost sadness and regret that I inform you that our beloved Dr Hage G Geingob, the president of the Republic of Namibia, has passed on today. At his side was his dear wife, Madame Monica Geingos and his children.

“At this moment of deepest sorrow, I appeal to the nation to remain calm and collected while the government attends to all necessary state arrangements, preparations and other protocols,” Mbumba noted.

Geingob had revealed in January that he was receiving treatment for cancer after cancerous cells were discovered during a routine medical check-up.

The deceased had been the country’s first president who did not hail from the Ovambo ethnic group where the majority of the country’s population hail from.

He was an advocate for Namibia’s independence as a young man and lived in exile for nearly three decades.

His party, Swapo, upon which he rose to the presidency, won the first elections in 1990, and he served as Prime Minister for over 12 years before becoming president in 2014.

However, high unemployment rates, recession and allegations of misappropriation characterised his first tenure as president.

Documents published by WikiLeaks in 2019 revealed cases of bribery by officials of Geingob’s government in what is now known as the Fish Rot scandal.

There were also allegations that his government granted contracts to foreign companies rather than those owned by locals.

Namibia may get first female president

Following Geingob’s death, Namibia may be on its way to having its first female president, as the ruling party, Swapo, choses a woman, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, to be its vice president.

Nandi Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah

According to the party’s constitution, this nomination puts Nandi-Ndaitwah in line to be the presidential candidate at the next elections, as Swapo has remained in power since Namibia gained her independence in 1990.

Although the number of women heading governments in Africa is low, more women are occupying positions of leadership across various countries on the continent.

In 2005, Liberia produced Africa’s first elected female president in the person of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who led the country till 2018 when she stepped down.

Although Sirleaf maintained peace in the war-torn Liberia, extreme poverty persisted in the country during her time as president.

    Others include Joyce Banda of Malawi, who rose to presidency from the position of Vice President after the death of her principal, Catherine Samba-Panza, who was elected transition president of the Central African Republic between 2014 and 2016.

    In 2021, Tanzania got its first female president when Samia Suluhu Hassan rose to the position following the death of her predecessor John Magufuli.

    Two other women have emerged as ceremonial heads of state in different African countries.

    In 2015, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was elected by the National Assembly in Mauritius, while Zewde Sahle-Work was elected in 2018 by the Ethiopian parliament.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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