Hanse-himarwa's Hands-on Experience In Africa's Last Colony

15 Dec 2013 14:20pm
By Sawi Lutibezi
(Nampa Features Service)

ALGIERS, 15 DEC (NAMPA) – The Governor of the Hardap Region, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa says she was amazed at how the Sahrawi people’s spirits remain high despite years of hardship on a recent trip to Algeria.
Hanse-Himarwa spoke to Nampa about her hands-on experience of the life and culture of the Sahrawi people last week.
She formed part of a 38-member Namibian delegation that was in Algeria from 06 to 09 December this year to hand over humanitarian aid to women and children living in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf.
The delegation included Swapo-Party Women’s Council (SPWC) Secretary Petrina Haingura; the Pan-African Women’s Organisation: Southern Africa Regional Office (PAWO-SARO) Executive Secretary Mildred Jantjies (head of delegation); as well as National Council (NC) vice-chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams.
The Sahrawi refugee camps were set up in the Tindouf Province from 1975 to 1976 for Sahrawi refugees fleeing from Moroccan forces, who advanced through Western Sahara during the Western Sahara War. With most refugees still living in the camps, the refugee situation is among the most protracted ones worldwide.
“What was really amazing to see was the high spirits of the people, waiting for the promise of independence some day,” Hanse-Himarwa said in last week’s interview.
Speaking passionately about her brief stay at the camps, the Hardap leader said the delegation had the opportunity to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with the Sahrawi people in their streets, to eat with them and to see and experience the circumstances they live in in the camps for themselves.
She went on to say the women living in the camps appear to be taking the lead in their people’s liberation struggle.
“I commend their bravery. They have already geared themselves towards a government ready to stand on its own,” she stated.
Hanse-Himarwa noted that although the level of development in the refugee camps in terms of infrastructure may not be of the best standards, the people there have managed to achieve a number of things such as building mud brick houses with proper flooring.
“Today, the refugee camps are built by the Sahrawi women. Each camp is well organised and divided into five districts, and each district has its own schools, museum, hospital and government offices,” she said.
Showering praise on the Sahrawi women, the Hardap leader said they are strong, determined and energised, and she was also impressed by the value they attach to the education of women and children.
She said close to 50 per cent of the Sahrawi women are educated, and she was stunned by the kindergartens set up at the camps.
“I urged them to focus seriously on education so that they do not to end up in a similar situation as Namibia where children in exile were not properly educated,” Hanse-Himarwa said.
She went on to say a major challenge the Sahrawi people face is a lack of exposure.
The Hardap Governor said she came across many children who were born and raised in the camps and whose movement is limited.
“The only world these people know is the camps. The expansion of the human intellect depends on the borders you cross and the exposure you get,” Hanse-Himarwa stressed, adding that Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara has denied the Sahrawi people the right of association, the right of free movement and the right to relate to people outside their country.
“These violations must be condemned with all the power we have through the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU),” she urged.
Hanse-Himarwa said these bodies should speed up the decolonisation of Western Sahara by implementing international law and accelerating the organisation of a free and democratic referendum of self-determination for the Sahrawi people.
The Namibian delegates also attended the African Conference of Solidarity with the Sahrawi Women held at the Sahrawi refugee camps for the first time from 06 to 09 December.
Representatives of countries such as Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Benin, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Spain, Mexico and Italy attended the conference.