- Today, on Namibia's 15th independence anniversary, founding President Sam Nujoma formally hands over powers to the country's second-ever President, Hifikepunye Pohamba. "Namibia has achieved much in the past 15 years" under President Nujoma, even the country's independent press recognises in advance of the celebrations.
According to 'The Namibian' - the country's leading independent media with a circulation of 40.000 daily newspapers - Namibia still has one of Africa's best constitutions, which respects the rights of the individual. "There have been significant gains since the demise of the apartheid era, not least of which is our hard-won peace, freedom and democracy," the newspaper writes on the occasion.
President Nujoma led the Namibian independence movement SWAPO to victory against apartheid South Africa's occupation in 1990. With his great popularity, he has now been the country's natural and unifying leader during 15 years. In every election since independence, SWAPO and the President have gained an impressive majority vote.
75-year-old President Nujoma decided to retire ahead of the November 2004 elections, however not without considering amending the constitution to allow for yet another re-election. After a power struggle in the ruling party, Mr Nujoma's handpicked candidate, Hifikepunye Pohamba, was elected SWAPO's choice for the presidency. Given SWAPO's strong position in the electorate, the decision for the presidential succession thus in fact was made by President Nujoma.
The aging outgoing President takes great pride in having liberated Namibia's majority population from the South African white minority rule. Although supporting Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's controversial land reforms, economic power in Namibia to a large degree remains in the hands of the former colonialists. Mr Pohamba however has initiated a land reform process that is set to redistribute wealth in a peaceful manner.
Despite the successes of the last 15 year, Namibia's second President faces great challenges. Namibia has developed into a middle-income country, but income distribution remains utterly unfair. Over half of the population live in poverty and close to 35 percent of the two million population lives on less than US$ 1 per day, according to the UN. Unemployment stands at around 35 percent.
One of the gravest failures of the Nujoma administration has been the late response to the AIDS pandemic ravaging Southern Africa. During the last few years, the HIV prevalence rate has exploded - now reaching an estimated 22.5 percent - to become the world's fifth highest. Life expectancy has already started falling and the country's social indicators are stumbling downhill due to the pandemic.
Today's celebrations will concentrate on the National Independence Stadium in Windhoek, the capital. In addition to the annual Independence Day celebrations, the crowd will be able to see the swearing-in ceremony of President Pohamba. Namibia's new and SWAPO-dominated parliament was already sworn in yesterday.
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