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Namibian President Hage Geingob laid to rest at Heroes’ Acre cemetery after state funeral

AP   -  
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Esther Mbathera/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

Africa

Namibian President Hage Geingob was laid to rest in the country’s Heroes’ Acre cemetery on Sunday following a state funeral attended by African leaders, the German president and Princess Anne, the sister of Britain’s King Charles III.

Geingob died earlier this month at the age of 82 while receiving treatment for cancer. He was Namibia’s third president since it gained independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990. Before that, the southern African country was a German colony.

Geingob’s widow, Monica Geingos, delivered a message at a memorial service on Saturday paying tribute to her husband’s rise from humble, rural roots to be his nation’s leader and a widely respected figure on the African continent.

“You were born a peasant and died a president,” Geingos said at the memorial service at a soccer stadium that was filled with mourners.

At his funeral on Sunday, Geingob’s coffin was draped in the Namibian flag and was carried in a glass case on the back of a military trailer.

Representatives from 27 countries attended the funeral, including Princess Anne, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Qatar President Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and 18 heads of state. The leaders of South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe all attended.

Steinmeier said at the memorial service it was time Germany extends an official apology to the people of Namibia for atrocities inflicted upon them during the 1904-1908 genocide, when German military forces killed approximately 50,000-65,000 of Namibia’s Herero ethnic group and another 10,000 members of the Nama ethnic group.

Geingob had pushed for reparations for the communities affected by the massacres more than a century ago. In 2021, the German government offered Namibia $1.1 billion in development funds to be paid over 30 years as reparations. It was rejected by the Namibian Parliament and by the communities, who asked for an improved offer.

“When I talked to Geingob for the last time last year, he spoke of his wish for the conclusion of the genocide negotiations,” Steinmeier said. “We are committed to the path of reconciliation. It is not about closing the past. It is about taking responsibility for this past and committing to a better future.”

Geingob’s final resting place will be in one of the nine mausoleums at Heroes’ Acre that have been set aside for Namibians who are awarded national hero status.

Geingob played a central role in what has become one of Africa’s most stable democracies after returning from a long exile in Botswana and the United States as an anti-apartheid activist. Namibia’s independence came after more than a century of German and then apartheid South African rule.

He had been president since 2015 and was set to finish his second and final term this year. Geingob also served as Namibia’s first prime minister after independence from 1990 to 2002 and was prime minister for a second time from 2012 to 2015.

His deputy, Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, was sworn in as acting president in the capital, Windhoek, on the day of Geingob’s death on Feb. 4 to complete the presidential term as allowed by the constitution.

Namibia will elect a new president in a vote set for November.