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Namibia | Angola
Politics | Society

Cold War secrets of Namibia, Angola revealed

SWAPO's Nghiyalasha Haulyondjaba, based in Angola in the early 1970s, was involved in warfare at several occasions

© Unknown/afrol News
afrol News, 8 February
- In a seldom interview, a Namibian ex-police chief reveals how the country's SWAPO freedom fighters fought together with the Angolan UNITA rebels in the early 1970s, at a time when UNITA started getting the apartheid regime's help in the Angolan civil war.

Journalist David Lush in the February 2011 edition of Namibia's ground-breaking monthly 'Insight Magazine' has interviewed Nghiyalasha Haulyondjaba, a veteran of SWAPO's long fight against the South African occupation of Namibia, later the Police Commissioner for northern Namibia and now retired.

In Namibia, still ruled by the SWAPO party 21 years after independence, there is an ongoing dispute over the freedom movement's history, and especially about early ties to Angola. The official view is that SWAPO always fought along with Angola's Marxist MPLM rebels, which still form the ruling party in the country.

A growing list of dissident voices, including most foreign historians writing Namibia's history, however insist SWAPO in the early 1970s established close ties with Angola's UNITA rebels - thus fighting both the Portuguese colonial power and the Marxist MPLA - with an aim of establishing a "northern front" and rebel bases across the border in Angola.

The troublesome part of this version is that UNITA continued to fight MPLA after the Marxists came to power in Luanda, gaining military and financial support from apartheid South Africa, the occupying power in Namibia. Several reports even have indicated SWAPO rebels based in Angola had fought alongside with UNITA and the South African army, countering the Cuba-backed MPLA.

Mr Haulyondjaba was SWAPO's formal envoy in Angola in the 1970s, tasked with helping to establish this northern front. And indeed, in the in

Angola's rebel leader Jonas Savimbi during peace negotiations in 1997

© Milton Grant/UN Photo/afrol News
terview with 'Insight Magazine' he fully confirms to have established SWAPO's Angola base at UNITA headquarters, in close and near cooperation with UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi.

The former fighter describes a close interaction between UNITA and SWAPO at the time, with exchange of weapons and identity cards. A SWAPO group even, at one occasion, had fought alongside UNITA following a surprise attack by the Portuguese, he reveals.

Mr Haulyondjaba only protests the tales of SWAPO having fought along with UNITA against the MPLA. He had been given strict orders from SWAPO headquarters not to get mixed up in internal fights between Angolans and had followed these orders. Mr Haulyondjaba however could not rule out that SWAPO arms had been borrowed by UNITA during its battles with the MPLA.

The retired SWAPO fighter further recalls the difficult times as UNITA started getting South African support and how he in 1976 was ordered to take his men to the MPLA, to establish SWAPO's new Angola base with the Marxist group, now in power. Meanwhile, a conflict within SWAPO between the elder comrades and younger Russian-trained Marxists had cost lives and brought the Cold War to Namibia.

The entire interview with Mr Haulyondjaba - with follow-up commentaries by his former body guard, Sebastian Ndeitunga, Namibia's current chief of police - and many more details can be read in the latest issue of Namibia's excellent 'Insight Magazine' (online at for a small fee.

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