Hage Gottfried Geingob, born on 3 August 1941, was a distinguished Namibian politician and statesman who left an indelible mark on the nation. He served as the third President of Namibia from 2015 until his untimely demise on 4 February 2024.
Early Life and Education
Hage Geingob was born in Otjiwarongo, South West Africa, now known as Namibia. His formative years were shaped under the Bantu Education System, which would later influence his path as a leader.
In 1960, Geingob was expelled from Augustineum secondary school for his role in a protest, demonstrating his early commitment to education and justice. Despite this setback, he completed a teacher-training course, furthering his dedication to learning.
Seeking to challenge and change the oppressive educational system, Geingob and several colleagues fled to Botswana. This escape from the Bantu Education System marked a significant step in his journey.
His activism didn’t stop there; from 1963 to 1964, Geingob served as the Assistant Representative of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) in Botswana, continuing his fight for justice and equality.
University Years and International Advocacy
Geingob’s quest for education took him to the United States in 1964, where he studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, earning a BA degree from Fordham University in 1970 and an MA degree in International Relations from The New School, New York, in 1974.
During this period, he was appointed SWAPO Representative at the United Nations and to the Americas (1964–1971). In 1972, Geingob joined the United Nations Secretariat as a political affairs officer, later becoming the director of the United Nations Institute for Namibia (1975–1989).
Throughout his career, Geingob was a key figure in Namibia’s fight for independence. Leading SWAPO’s election campaign in 1989 marked his return to Namibia after a 27-year absence.
In his capacity as Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, he played a crucial role in crafting Namibia’s constitution in 1990.
Geingob made history on 21 March 1990, when he was inaugurated as the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia, a position he held for 12 years. He re-entered the political arena in 2004, securing a seat in the parliamentary election.
During his tenure, he served as SWAPO’s Chief Whip in the National Assembly and as the Minister of Trade and Industry.
President of Namibia
Geingob’s presidency began in 2015 after winning the 2014 elections with an overwhelming majority. During his tenure, he focused on social programs for older people and renewable energy development.
His commitment to justice was evident when he dared the United States to join the International Criminal Court in 2016.
Later Years, Illness, and Legacy
Despite contending with significant health issues, including undergoing brain surgery in 2013 and overcoming prostate cancer in 2014, President Hage Geingob persevered in his leadership role. In January 2024, he disclosed a cancer diagnosis and underwent treatment in the United States.
Namibia experienced a profound loss with President Hage Geingob’s passing on 4 February 2024.
His enduring legacy is marked by pivotal contributions to Namibia’s attainment of independence, notable diplomatic achievements, and the initiation of various development projects.
In his honor, significant landmarks such as the Hage Geingob Rugby Stadium and the University of Namibia’s Medical School Campus reflect his lasting influence on the country.
Why Was Hage Geingob Loved?
Geingob was cherished and respected by all, including world leaders, for various reasons that reflect his impact on both Namibia and the international community. Upon his passing, world leaders, including President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin expressed condolences.
The nation came together in a display of unity and grief, with citizens participating in a candlelit vigil singing Geingob praises. fondly remembered him as a visionary leader who was not only approachable but also deeply connected with the people he served.
Reasons why Geingob was loved around the world:
1. Visionary Leadership
Geingob was a visionary leader, particularly through initiatives like Namibia’s Second Harambee Prosperity Plan in 2021, focusing on renewable energy. He also established one of the largest desalination plants in Southern Africa to address water scarcity and promote environmental sustainability. His commitment to sustainable development garnered both national and international admiration.
“His leadership and his accomplishments will remain as a legacy for all Namibians.” – Namibia Airports Company (NAC)
“We are indeed sad to bid farewell to his excellency Dr Hage Gottfried Geingob. He was pivotal in creating a spirit of Harambee which is enshrined in our constitution. “We acknowledge his role in guarding the reconciliation process for 34 years and his tireless effort to unite the nation under one roof – our Namibian House.” – Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) president Thinus Pretorius
2. Global Advocacy
President maintained close relations with various countries, including the United States, Germany, China, and Russia. His diplomatic skills and ability to foster collaboration contributed to positive international perceptions. Geingob’s global influence extended to addressing issues like colonialism and advocating for justice.
In 2021, he criticized Germany for supporting Israel amid accusations of genocide against Palestinians.
“Germany cannot morally express commitment to the United Nations convention against genocide, including atonement for the genocide in Namibia, whilst supporting the equivalent of a holocaust and genocide in Gaza.” – Hage Geingob
His vocal stance on global issues, such as justice and international relations, earned him esteemed recognition on the Global stage
3. Contribution to Namibia’s Independence and Liberation
Geingob played a central role in Namibia’s struggle for independence, and his dedication to the liberation movement earned him widespread respect. He endured apartheid and spent nearly three decades in exile, returning in 1989.
Geingob faced challenges, including economic issues and corruption scandals, but maintained a strong commitment to progress.
“President Geingob’s dedication to ending colonialism, particularly in Southern Africa, was unwavering. He played a pivotal role in shaping Namibia’s constitution, a model for good governance and the rule of law.” – Secretary-General Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti (Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States)
“The Namibian nation has lost a distinguished servant of the people, a liberation struggle icon, the chief architect of our constitution, and the pillar of the Namibian house.” – Namibia President Nangolo Mbumba
Furthermore, being the first president from a different ethnic group, Geingob symbolized inclusivity and unity.
“He was also greatly influential in the solidarity that the people of Namibia extended to the people of South Africa so that we could be free today.” – President Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa)
Side Facts About Namibia
Namibia is celebrated for its cultural diversity, housing various ethnic groups each with unique traditions.
Its breathtaking landscapes, including the Namib Desert and Etosha National Park, offer unparalleled natural beauty and wildlife.
The cuisine reflects a blend of indigenous, German, and South African influences, featuring dishes like biltong and kapana.
Namibia is a pioneer in environmental conservation, integrating it into its constitution and promoting eco-tourism through communal conservancies.
Adventure tourism also thrives here, with activities ranging from sandboarding and skydiving to wildlife safaris, making Namibia a distinctive African destination.
Just hours after the death of Geingob, the Vice president, Nangolo Mbumba was sworn in as the new president of Namibia.