November 23, 2005

Mass graves near Angolan border found

The Namibian government has called for information on apartheid-era mass graves discovered at a former military base in the northern town of Eenhana near the Angolan border. "We are appealing to the conscience of those who served in the former South African Defence Forces (SADF), who are probably living in South Africa, to come forward with any information they might have," said Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia's minister of information and broadcasting.
The uniforms found in the graves suggest that the dead were members of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), the armed wing of the ruling SWAPO party. "We also found cloth used by the former apartheid regime to suffocate people, so we can assume that the SADF were responsible for these deaths," Nandi-Ndaitwah said. The minister noted that SWAPO, which won a landslide in the elections at independence in 1990, had signed an agreement with the then apartheid government not to take legal action against individuals for their role in atrocities during the liberation war.
While the government stands by the agreement, a Namibian NGO, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), has called for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) akin to the South African model to account for several thousand people who went missing during the liberation struggle. Nandi-Ndaitwah, however, ruled out the possibility because of SWAPO's commitment to a policy of reconciliation. "But the discovery does prove what we had been saying all along about the cruelty of the former South African regime. Unfortunately, international human rights organisations were unable to prove it then," she added. (Rts)


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