His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma, Founding President of the Republic of Namibia was born on 12 May 1929 at the Etunda village, Omusati Region in the North-Western part of Namibia to Mr Daniel Uutoni Nujoma and Mrs Helvi Mpingana Kondombolo. He is the firstborn in a family of 11. Like all boys of those days, he looked after his parent’s cattle and assisted with home chores including cultivation of land.
He received his primary education from the Okahao Finnish Mission School from 1937 to 1945. In 1946 he moved to the coastal town of Walvisbay to live with his aunt Gebhart Nandjule. In 1947, at the age of 17, he got his first employment in a store where was earning a monthly salary of 10 Shillings. It was in Walvis Bay that he got exposed to modern world politics by meeting soldiers from Argentina, Norway and other parts of Europe who had been brought there during World War II. At the beginning of 1949, Dr Sam Nujoma went to live in Windhoek with his uncle Hiskia Kondombolo. In Windhoek, he started working for the South African Railways. At this period, he attended adult night school at St. Barnabas in the Windhoek Old Location. He further studied for his junior Certificate through correspondence at the Trans-Africa correspondence college in South Africa.
On 6 May 1956, Dr Nujoma got married to Kovambo Theopoldine Katjimune. Madam Nujoma was born on 10 March 1933 in Windhoek. They had 4 children: Utoni Daniel (1952), John Ndeshipanda (1955), Sakaria Nefungo (1957) and Nelago (1959), who passed away at 18 months sadly while Dr Nujoma was in exile. To date, Dr Nujoma and his wife have been blessed with ( ) grandchildren.
With a deep passion for politics and yearning to see his people free from the restricted pass law system and confined according to Ethnic groupings, Dr Nujoma resigned from the South African Railways in 1957 at the age of 29. He did so with the purpose of devoting his time to politics. In 1959, he was elected Leader of the Owambo People’s Organization (OPO) which aimed at ending the then contract system and ending the South African colonial administration by placing South West Africa (SWA) under the UN Trusteeship system. Through this, Dr Nujoma petitioned the UN in the late fifties, together with Chief Hosea Kutako, Samuel Witbooi, Theophilus Hamutumbangela, Toivo ya Toivo and others demanding that the then South West Africa be placed under the UN Trusteeship system.
Subsequently, Dr Nujoma together with Uatja Kaukuetu of SWANU and Moses Garoeb, the late Minister of Labour and others, organized resistance against the forcible removal of the inhabitants of the Old Location to the new township of Katutura, which was based on the apartheid policy. This culminated in the massacre of 12 innocent unarmed persons and wounding many others on the 10th December 1959.
After the massacre, he was arrested and charged for organizing the resistance. By the directive of OPO leadership and in collaboration with Chief Hosea Kutako, he went into exile on 1 March 1960, via the then British Bechuanaland protectorate. With the assistance of Daniel Munamava he was able to cross the borders of Bechuanaland, Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Kenya and Sudan. In April 1960, he attended the All African People’s Conference organized by President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana against the French Atom Bomb test in the Sahara Desert.
After Ghana, Dr Sam Nujoma went to Liberia and finally reached the USA in June 1960 and petitioned before the UN Fourth Committee of the General Assembly demanding the end of the South African colonial administration of SWA. Meanwhile, the South West Africa People’s Organization was formed on the 19th April 1960 and Dr Nujoma was elected as the President of the movement in absentia. In March 1966, in a bid to test South Africa’s claims at the International Court of Justice at the Hague that Namibians in exile were free to return, Nujoma, accompanied by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, chartered a plane to Windhoek. On arrival at the airport, they were arrested and deported to Zambia on 21st March 1966.
From 1977 to 1978, Dr Nujoma led the SWAPO negotiations team between the Western Five Contact group and South Africa on the one hand, and the Frontline States, Nigeria, and SWAPO on the other, which culminated in the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 435 (1978). Thereafter on 19th March 1989, the signing of the cease-fire agreement with South Africa took place, which resulted in the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 435.
In Namibia’s first democratic elections for a Constituent Assembly, SWAPO gained a majority and Dr Sam Nujoma was elected. On 16th February 1990, he was unanimously elected by the National Assembly as the First President of the Republic of Namibia. On 21st March 1990, President Nujoma was sworn in as the First President of the Republic of Namibia and Commander-in-Chief of the Namibian Defence Force. He was re-elected for two more terms of office in 1994 and 1999 respectively, in recognition of his wise and dynamic leadership. Through his leadership, SWAPO adopted the Policy of National Reconciliation under the motto: ONE NAMIBIA, ONE NATION. He successfully united all Namibians into a peaceful, tolerant and democratic society governed by the rule of law.
In recognition of his dedication to his selfless sacrifice to the national liberation struggle and nation-building, the Parliament of the Republic of Namibia enacted legislation in April 2005, declaring him the Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation. He stepped down on 21st March 2005, handing over the power to his successor His Excellency the President Hifikepunye Pohamba. He served as the leader of the SWAPO Party for 47 years. He also stepped down as the first President of the Party on 30th November 2007 handing over the power to his successor, His Excellency Comrade Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the SWAPO-Party. During the historical occasion, Dr Nujoma had the following to say:
“I am stepping down as President of SWAPO Party with a full sense of fulfilment. I am proud to have worked with the entire leadership of SWAPO. Collectively, we have steered SWAPO through immense challenges, some of which might have seemed insurmountable. There were internal contradictions, most often driven by tribalistic, power-hungry, unpatriotic and selfless individuals. In all these challenges, SWAPO preserved, survived and emerged even stronger.” – Dr Sam Nujoma
During his lifetime, Dr Nujoma was awarded honours and awards for his outstanding leadership, courage and total commitment towards the creation of a non-racial society in Namibia.