April 5, 2004

NAMIBIA: Three Candidates named to replace Nujoma

In what will go down in history as a landmark decision, the Central Committee of the ruling party, Swapo, has ended the controversial debate about a fourth term for President Sam Nujoma, instead putting forward three candidates for the Namibian Presidency. President Nujoma will now step down at the end of his term next year - setting the stage for a hot succession race between three Swapo stalwarts. One of three candidates - Ministers Hifikepunye Pohamba, Hidipo Hamutenya and Nahas Angula - will be chosen by a Swapo Extraordinary Congress as the presidential candidate for the next elections to be held from May 28 to 29. One source described it as "an historic moment", with the Swapo Party showing "a new sense of maturity and good judgement" by deciding not to grant President Nujoma a fourth term. "The President of Swapo Party reiterated his earlier decision that in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, he will not seek another term of office ...," Nujoma himself announced.

Over the last months, the presidential succession debate has threatened to polarise Namibian politics as speculation mounted over the possibility of amending the Constitution - again - to allow for a fourth term for President Nujoma. Last week a crowd of Swapo supporters demonstrated at Oshakati to demand a referendum on a fourth term. At the same time a strong "anti-fourth" campaign was gaining momentum both in civil society and the ruling party itself.

When he opened the Central Committee meeting on Friday, Nujoma urged his party's leaders to handle the presidential succession issue with sober minds and in the spirit of unity "so that as a ruling party we can arrive at workable solutions. When there is no unity, there will be no peace and stability... we must therefore hold hands and promote unity with our party and society at large," the President emphasised. Swapo has a two-thirds majority in parliament and is likely to win the coming presidential and general elections. (The Namibian, Windhoek)


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