Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Darren Kew

Second Advisor

Donna Haig Friedman

Third Advisor

Ann Withorn


Just like the Babylonian confusion narrated in the book of Genesis in the old Bible, colonialism and apartheid South Africa confounded and divided Namibians along racial and ethnic lines. In reverse, the South West Africa People’s Organization-led government (SWAPO) introduced the policy of national reconciliation to reconcile and unify Namibia under ‘One Namibia-one nation’ at the dawn of independence in 1990. Understandably, this distinction is important for post-independent Namibia because colonialism (and the subsequent national liberation struggle) was a man-made disaster which destroyed Namibia’s societal and moral fabric through geographical, economic, political, gender, and social/cultural segregation and division.

This qualitative study explored the significance of the Namibian reconciliation process in the lives of the citizens, and related their experiences to the country’s ongoing nation building process of ‘One Namibia-one nation’. Through interviews, ethnographical observation, review of secondary data and Southern Africa regional comparisons, the study revealed that reconciliation, like all things political, is also an interest-driven process that is susceptible to manipulation. Therefore the findings of this study suggest that the reconciliation process in Namibia has been inherently driven by political interests. If colonialism and the apartheid regime of South Africa used Namibia’s ethnic and racial diversity to divide and rule, post-independent Namibia’s policy of national reconciliation is inadvertently serving as a tool to control politics. Similar to the ruling ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe and the ANC in South Africa’s glorification of the liberation struggle, the ruling party SWAPO (as liberation struggle victors) seems to have been dictating the terms of the reconciliation process by demanding loyalty from citizens, squashing public debate about the past, and therefore imposing a code of silence as a condition for peace and stability in Namibia. Consequently, the study concluded that Namibia has a cult-like reconciliation (with its script of a single nationhood) discourse, which does not only treat reconciliation as an end (as opposed to viewing it as a means to an end), but also fixes the meaning of national identity to the exclusion of other alternative modes of identifications and interpretation.


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