While I stole the title of this post from a past opinion/editorial in the Namibian (a local newspaper), I completely get it and have the same question. Saturday, March 21 marked 19 years since Namibia gained it’s independence from South Africa (although Namibia’s coastal town of Walvis Bay had to wait an additional four years – 1994 – to be freed from foreign control). Before becoming a protectorate of South Africa, Namibia was under German rule. As noted in many texts and speeches, Namibia has a long road to freedom. Nonetheless, there was not a single sign of independence or celebration, or even a notable Namibian flag in the tourist/holiday resort of Swakopmund, where I was relaxing on that day. At least, not where I could see. What’s that all about?
I am sure that there must be a few folks over here that who are not too pleased about the “independence” of Namibia; it may have messed up a few things in some people’s lives, people who were otherwise content pre-independence. There are also others who may just accept the new reality, but not feel as much to celebrate the fact. The town of Walvis Bay, where we traveled and sailed on a marine cruise, actually was the last part of Namibia to become “free.” But still, where were the fireworks? Banners? Light-post signs? radio shout-outs? It just felt weird.
The main celebration, with the president and parades and the like, took place in Keetmanshoop, a town in the Southern part of the country. Other celebrations around the nation were, according to select news reports, and according to my eye-witness account in one, actually two (Swakopmund and Walvis Bay), locales, somewhat lackluster and even non-existent.
I know that many national/patriotic celebrations in the U.S.A., especially as it relates to our national history and heritage are extremely superficial; most do not know even know what days like Veteran's Day or the Fourth of July actually commemorate. I thought it would be different here, though, because of how recent the "main events" have been.
The Namibian has a section where readers can send a text message that may be printed in the paper. There were a number of comments about independence day celebrations and participation. It’s hard to know how representative the views truly are. I asked school-children in Khorixas how they celebrated independence on that Saturday and most just stayed home and did nothing special. A few watched the Keetmanshoop celebration on television.
I know that as I become closer to the people, I’m sure I’ll learn more about related sentiments.