Chiefs to meet over Red Flag Heroes Day
25 Jun 2013 - Story by Lorraine Kazondovi
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WINDHOEK - A consultative meeting on how to commemorate the Okahandja Red Flag Heroes Day celebrations is scheduled for the coming weeks, the Paramount Herero Chief Kuaima Riruako confirmed this week.

According to Chief Riruako the first attempt to discuss the issue was during the ‘All Ovaherero and Ovambaderu Conference’ at Otjimbingue on June 14 and 15. The meeting however was not well attended with several royal houses not represented, hence the need for another meeting, said Festus Muundjua, who is also the patron of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee (OGC). "The issue is still under [discussion], all will be invited for a meeting to be held soon," said Muundjua without offering a specific date.

The commemoration of the Okahandja Red Flag Heroes Day was plunged into chaos last year, with opposing factions claiming the right to organise and lead the commemoration proceedings that have taken place at Okahandja since 1923. The Namibian Police (Nampol) had to intervene as the opposing parties representing the various royal houses and their subjects, threatened each other with violence. The Red Flag Heroes Day, better known as Otjiserandu, is held annually to pay homage to fallen Ovaherero warrior heroes and leaders who died bravely in the brutal war against the imperial German troops during the war that led to the 1904 genocide.

The event takes place at Okahandja at the burial site of one of the legendary and inspirational Namibian traditional leaders Chief Samuel Maharero. Last year was the first time that the commemoration did not take place on the actual day - August 26, with one faction instead hosting a smaller function on September 02 under close police watch. The disagreement is mainly over the location of the ritual holy fire, with each of the opposing groups claiming a different spot to be the correct and legitimate location of the fire.

 

The disagreement surfaced in 2011, following nearly 90 years of hosting the event at the same place without incident. Meanwhile, Ueriuka Tjikuua, who is the secretary of the secretariat representing the royal houses of Kambazembi, Zeraeua, Mureti, Maharero and Vita confirmed that the chiefs from these royal houses did receive an invitation to attend the Otjimbingue meeting. However, they declined the invitation, because the Okahandja Red Flag Heroes Day dispute was not on the agenda of the conference. Tjikuua emphasised that they would have liked to add various issues to the agenda such as the Okahandja dispute, as well as allegations of some traditional leaders interfering and imposing themselves on the proper jurisdiction of recognised traditional leaders.

Such interference, he said, manifests in the operations of illegitimate traditional courts, which are used to sideline the recognised and bona fide traditional courts. "By law only one court should operate, but numerous courts exist and this creates chaos," complained Tjikuua. The organiser of the ‘All Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Conference’ of Otjimbingwe, Utjiua Muinjangue, says there are plans to hold an annual leadership summit to deliberate on matters of common interest such as youth education, sustainable farming practices, development, as well as the health and social wellbeing of the communities.

Education is also one of the key issues that would be discussed, with Muinjangue saying the absence of secondary schools in rural communities is contributing to social decay, especially among young people. She said as a result of that many young people are denied the opportunity to proceed to tertiary education. "We will spare no efforts in mobilising our communities and the government to implement secondary level education in the catchment areas of our communities," she said.