June 28, 2005

Namibia seals pact on commonwealth graves

Namibia has taken a step forward in playing its full role among Commonwealth countries by signing an agreement on the treatment of Commonwealth war graves in the country. The agreement was signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marco Hausiku, and two Commonwealth representatives, British High Commissioner Alasdair MacDermott and Indian High Commissioner Yogendra Kumar. It will also be signed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, who together with India and the UK comprise the War Graves Commission.
According to Minister Hausiku, the agreement only clarifies that maintaining the graves is Government's responsibility, but doesn't stipulate how things should be done in practice. There has been a private organisation taking care of war graves in the country, Kriegsgräber Fürsorge Namibia, which will not be made redundant if it is willing to continue its work. "Certainly this agreement has sentimental value. This way we honour soldiers that laid down their lives at the World Wars; this is the way we cherish their lives. In this manner we also further attach Namibia to Commonwealth countries," High Commissioner Kumar described the importance of the agreement. It is a further symbol that Namibia plays its full role among the Commonwealth countries," High Commissioner MacDermott said. He added that Queen Elizabeth II had a personal interest in the War Graves Commission. The Commission was established in 1917 and its task is to mark and maintain the graves of the members of the armed forces of Commonwealth countries who were killed in World Wars I and II, which was about 1,7 million men and women. The Commission is maintaining war graves in some 150 different countries (including Austria), mostly in 2.500 individual war cemeteries. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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