Rukoro should apologise
President Hage Geingob recently ordered Omaheke Governor Festus Ueitele to publicly apologise for the alleged racial utterances he made towards the Ovaherero people, and just a week later Governor Ueitele honoured the request and apologised.
Ueitele was accused of making tribal remarks, in a recording, which went viral in April this year. He claimed that the Ovaherero people are backstabbers with no respect for other tribes.
The recording exposes him uttering that the Ovaherero people cannot be trusted as they are trying to get rid of the Oshiwambo people in the region.
Although Ueitele initially denied having said the unacceptable and insulting remarks, there was a national outcry, with some sections calling him disrespectful while others asked for his head.
This same pressure led to President Geingob ordering him to apologise, which, to his credit, he did.
Now we have Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Vekuii Rukoro, comfortably calling a national government an “Ovambo government” and making a crude reference concerning where a finger may be placed.
“Government has gone too far. This current Ovambo government is putting their finger in the Herero’s backside. It is a deliberate attempt to provoke us. We are willing to die for what is ours,” Rukoro was quoted in the media as having said recently.
These inflammatory, rude, tribalist remarks by Rukoro should be condemned with the same contempt as those of Governor Ueitele. Tribalism is divisive, destructive and negative regardless of the wrongdoer.
The danger of tribalism in Namibia is that it is pervasive and it controls a lot of our behaviour, readily overriding reason. There are some destructive cultural and traditional practices amongst various ethnic groups that can run contrary to national law, fairness, gender equality and freedom of speech.
And yet, they are readily practiced and honoured assiduously in some ethnic circles. It can be argued that tribalism beyond-limits can hold back economic growth and development, the ability to attract foreign investment and the opportunities for anyone with talent to innovate, imagine and create; it can strangle a knowledge economy.
Think of the inhuman and unjust things that have been done in the name of tribal unity. Wars are essentially, and often quite specifically, based on tribalism and ethnic rivalries and jealousies. Genocides are tribalism - wipe out the other group to keep our group safe – taken to madness.
Apartheid was tribalism at its worst. Parents who end contact with their own children when they dare marry someone of a different faith or colour is another example of negatives of tribally-motivated dictates and strictures.
So it is only fair that Adv. Rukoro, who is also the CEO of an SOE and in effect, can be arguably considered an indirect employee of the government, must be ordered to apologise. But, as he apologises, can he explain what makes the current government an “Ovambo Government,” particularly when a non-Ovambo president was elected with 87 percent of the national vote?
Let us face it: we are social animals. We have evolved to depend on our communities and societies, literally, for our safety and survival. As Jane Howard, biographer of anthropologist Margaret Mead, put it, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, and call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
We may not be aware at the conscious level of the influence tribalism has on us, but then, most of human cognition happens below the radar of consciousness, and is driven not so much by the goal of getting good grades or winning Nobel Prizes as it is, first, to survive.
Small wonder that this ultimate imperative dominates so much of how we behave, how we think and act, and how we treat each other.
And it’s hardly surprising that the more unsettled and uncertain we feel, and the less we feel we have control over how things are going - feelings that make us feel threatened - the more we circle the wagons and fiercely look to our particular clan or community to keep us safe.
It’s a sobering reflection on this inherent, but potentially destructive aspect of human nature, in these unsettled and threateningly uncertain times.