On August the 26th 1966 the first shots were fired in Namibia’s war for independence at the battle of Omugulugwombashe in Namibia's central Northern region. It would take 23 years for Namibia to achieve independence but it is these first acts of armed resistance that are being commemorated on Monday 26th August. Heroes’ Day is celebrated every year in Namibia in an effort to never forget the sacrifices and efforts of all the proud Namibians who fought for freedom and self-determination.
The Unknown Soldier at Heroes' Acre
These days the holiday is used to foster national pride and to stress the importance of togetherness in Namibia. Namibia has several diverse cultures living within its borders and presidents often use the 26th of August to remind everyone in Namibia, and the world at large, just how remarkable and peacefully all the different cultures in Namibia co-exist.
Three Himba children laughing
(image courtesy of Nigel Pavitt)
Namibia’s Heroes’ Day is a time for all Namibians to reflect on how far the country has come since attaining its independence from South Africa in 1990. Rather than focussing on the lives lost needlessly in a justified struggle for independence from a white minority government, Namibia focuses on the positive aspects of its post-independence reality. In recent years the spotlight has been put on to current citizens’ Namibian hero. This typifies the Namibian spirit of endeavour and a national psyche of reconciliation with a view to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
The Heroes’ Acre just outside Windhoek is a monument to the fallen soldiers and citizens of Namibia. The monument aims to honour the lives of those Namibians who may have otherwise been forgotten through the passage of time. There is a statue of the unknown soldier and seating for about 50 000 people for when events are held in its amphitheatre.
A flame burns in memorium for those who have been lost
A tourist makes his way to the Unknown Soldier
Heroes' Acre seen from its paved square
This year the annual celebrations will be held in the Omusati region where the war for independence began in 1966. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has predicted that over 50 000 people will attend the ceremonies being held. This year the highlight of the ceremony will include the unveiling of a new statue of Dr Sam Nujoma to celebrate the ex-president’s integral role in fighting for Namibia’s independence.
Founding President Sam Nujoma (left) greeting the late Colonel John Otto
Nankudhu during the 2009 Heroes’ Day commemoration
(image courtesy of the Namibian Sun)
The planned ceremony will also celebrate the role of everyday Namibian heroes and heroines who all contribute to making Namibia the wonderful, peaceful and harmonious country it is. Men and women such as Cgunta Khao//Khao who at great personal risk helped to save a tourist form a bushfire in 2012.
Cgunta: A true Namibian hero recovering from his burns in hospital
(image courtesy of the N/a'an ku sê Foundation)
Namibians across the political, social and economic spectrum are expected to honour the day. There are even groups in the United Kingdom that will be holding events for Namibian ex-pats looking to honour the spirit of their country. So if you are a homesick ex-pat reading this blog then take a moment this Monday to remember just exactly what make Namibia and its people so unique and wonderful.
The Heroes' Acre monument stands proud against a bright blue Namibian sky