CNN elephant tramples Namibian grass

27 October 2017
The recent furore over a CNN news report claiming that Namibia has not complied with UN Security Council (UN SC) sanctions on North Korea may well be a tempest in a teapot.
The unnecessarily sensational CNN news report that gave international legs to a North Korea/Namibia ‘bromance’ since independence (due to that country’s support for the liberation struggle), is a bit of a stretch. 
Allow us to wave the flag just a bit.
We reject the over-exaggerations by CNN in its bid to make their headline story more salacious.  There was no ‘investigation’ involved in that report, only sound-bites and clips that came off like Tweets. 
CNN downplayed the fact that the sanctions regime imposed as of 5 August and 11 September, 2017 has been complied with, despite what has gone on between Namibia and the inaptly named Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) before. 
Mansudae Overseas Projects (MOP) and its military branch called Korea Mining Development Training Corporation (KOMID) are North Korean SOEs that are subject to the sanctions.  The Government has stated that contracts with these entities are now terminated and that North Koreans working in Namibia are no longer in the country.
Instead of clarifying this in that news piece, CNN allowed their cameras to film the outside of a bland area where they ‘claim’ that the munitions factory, closed since 2005, was located.  Their reporter purposefully allowed the implication of ‘cover-up’ by Namibia to float in the air with no evidence or information to back that up. 
The CNN piece never mentioned Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah’s visit to North Korea to give respect to an erstwhile ally, as Namibia severed relations covered under the sanctions regime.
CNN also did not quantify the very low level of financial impact for either Namibia’s economy or that of North Korea which the Namibian contracts earn. 
Because it is the news titan CNN, we recognise that this issue, if not swiftly and correctly managed, could give Namibia’s hard-earned and well-deserved international ‘good guy’ image, a bruised eye, which, in this case, is not fair.
At a time when Namibia desperately needs to increase international tourism, find more markets for our exports and attract more foreign direct investment during our recession, allowing a ‘North Korea-gate’ to grow wings, will not be helpful.
Our officials know that any international sanctions or even headlines with Namibia and North Korea mentioned together (in the current anti-DPRK climate), could damage this country’s reputation. 
While Namibia claims the required reports regarding sanctions compliance for this year were sent in April 2017, the UN Inspections Official in the CNN news piece said that Namibia cannot say on its own that it is complying; they must check and have documentation to back it up.
And yet, Namibia says that its doors are open to the UN inspection team and the UN has yet to take up the invitation. 
The back and forth can continue, but our Government’s position appears sound.  Namibia is on the side of the angels here and is doing its best, as a small developing country to comply with the sanctions.
Our Head of State says our international relations are based on the “We are friends to all and enemies to none” mantra, however, in the case of a friend that threatens WWIII, we believe that Namibia might want to re-calculate the criteria used to choose our friends. 
We need not be ‘enemies’ of the DPRK just because the western world and the UN tells us to.  Namibia is a proud, sovereign country and our choices of allies and relationships must fit our interests first and foremost. 
At the same time, as a responsible world player, Namibia is obliged to try her best to adhere to international commitments via the United Nations; and it seems that the Government is doing this.
The DPRK has been under some level of international sanctions since October 2006. 
On 5 August, 2017, the UN SC banned the hiring and paying of additional DPRK labourers used to generate foreign export earnings and expanded financial sanctions by prohibiting new or expanded joint ventures and cooperative commercial entities with the DPRK.
On 11 September, 2017, the UN Security Council introduced a new raft of restrictions, including:  A ban on member states from providing work authorisations for DPRK nationals and expanded financial sanctions that prohibit all joint ventures or cooperative entities or any expansion of existing joint ventures with DPRK entities or individuals.
At each juncture, our Government has insisted that it has complied.  We await the UN evidence to the contrary.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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