ETUNDA, 13 MAY – The 89th birthday celebrations of Founding President, Sam Nujoma was nothing short of extra-ordinary, snugly befitting his status as leader of the Namibian revolution.
No less than 5 000 people descended on Etunda Village, some 10 kilometres east of Okahao in the Omusati Region since Friday to mark the day, 12 May, in tribute to Nujoma’s contribution to the Namibian liberation struggle.
The nine large marque tents set up for festivities on Saturday were filled to capacity, with many people left to stand at the back as they scramble for some shade to shield them from the midday sun.
Those who managed to get a seat under tents have been at the venue as early as 05h00, while a handful set up tents to accommodate themselves to avoid the scramble for chairs.
For someone who had sacrificed the better days of his youth to lead a protracted struggle for political independence from South Africa, Nujoma’s birthday celebrations draw well-wishers from virtually all corners of Namibia as well as liberation struggle friends China and Cuba, among others.
Nujoma appeared at the event on Saturday in a black suit alongside his spouse, Kovambo Nujoma, the country’s founding first lady.
Joy was clearly written on his face as he made his way to his seat under the main tent reserved for dignitaries, aptly taking his place at the main table.
The programme got off the ground shortly after other dignitaries, including President Hage Geingob, arrived.
Festivities featured cultural performances, with most of them depicting the way of life of the people of Etunda.
The message across all performances appeared to be geared towards imploring the youth to take their culture seriously.
Such activities were also the order of the day the previous evening, when various groups took to the stage to relate cultural teachings on tradition, rites and rituals of their respective clans.
The age-old oral storytelling tradition was briefly revived Friday in the form of the popular “Ohungi”, which is an event in which elders gather around a central fire and exchange nuggets of wisdom with the young ones.
Various speakers on Saturday paid tribute to Nujoma, describing him as a determined and committed freedom fighter who remained steadfast where others wavered.
Geingob, in his speech on the day, said Nujoma persevered in his quest to free Namibia, something which needs to be emulated by the youth.
The bulk of the messages came in the form of poems, which showcased the importance of local literature.
Orators chronicled the Sam Nujoma story, relating his childhood days at the village and his eventual venturing into exile.
Local musician, Naftali ‘D-Naff’ Amukwelele, who introduced himself as originally from an area near Etunda, thrilled the audience with his lively performance, which largely depicted the war of liberation in tribute to Nujoma.
Pandemonium was, however, reserved for the ever-popular Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, which set the house “on fire” with liberation songs, belting out most of the favourite tunes of the Swapo party.
As the programme was winding down, it was time to cut the birthday cake. The “birthday boy” stepped forward and assisted by Kovambo, cut the cake.
The official programme ended with Nujoma, Geingob and other dignitaries treated to a traditional lunch, while the rest of the revellers enjoyed their food under their respective tents.
By sunset the tempo rose, as various music groups entertained the audience into the wee hours of Sunday.
Such were the festivities of Nujoma’s 89th birthday celebrations. One wonders how his 90th will be topped.