Namibia: Nujoma Attacks Homosexuals

At the opening of the Swapo Women's Council Congress on December 6, 1996, President Nujoma of Namibia made a departure from his prepared speech to attack Namibia's homosexual citizens. With glaring similarity to Zimbabwe's President Mugabe in his disregard for the civil rights of lesbians and gay men, President Nujoma stated that "all necessary steps must be taken to combat influences that are influencing us and our children in a negative way. Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society." The Windhoek Advertiser reports that this attack was immediately followed by a call from the Rainbow Project for dialogue with the head of state. The Rainbow Project, a coalition of Namibian gays and lesbians, indicated that Prime Minister Hage Geingob had in 1990 assured Namibia's homosexual citizens of their rights under Article 10.2 of the Constitution.

Article 10.2 of the Namibian Constitution states that "no person may be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status." The growing international trend is to interpret "other status" to include sexual orientation. Presumably, Prime Minister Hage Geingob supported that interpretation of the Namibia Constitution.

While President Nujoma has as yet made no public response to the outcry against his statements, he has issued no further attacks. Though this attack does not appear to have been precipitated by any high profile action on the part of Namibia's homosexual community, it is not unprecedented. There was a similar outcry from Namibia's lesbian and gay citizens in October of 1995, when Ministers Helmut Angula and Nahas Angula, and Deputy Minister Hadino Hishongwa jointly denounced homosexuality as "an un-African social evil." Deputy Minister Hishongwa further declared homosexuality to be "pathological" and "curable through long-term treatment."