National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo)
By Asser Ntinda
The future of one of Namibia's opposition parties of the apartheid era, the National Unity Democratic Organization, NUDO, hangs in the balance, a year before Namibia's next Presidential and National Assembly elections
take place. NUDO is plagued by many divisive problems. Among those problems dogging it are infighting and divisive bickering which stem from this year's elective congress. Many serious political observers have already
written it off as nothing but a
tribal association led by Chief Kuaima Riruako
At that elective congress, NUDO's former Secretary General, Arnold Tjihuiko, suffered a
humiliating defeat when he failed to retain his position, giving way for Meundju Jahanika. It
appears the two have never forgiven each other. "Unity slogans and friendship declarations"
were simply faked to project an image of a "united party that has just emerged" from the
congress. Bitter blows are still being exchanged in the tribal corridors, almost a year after the
elective congress has already receded into history.
The young turfs want to kick out the old guards, but the battle seems to be tough. Chief
Riruako is adamant that he still "has what it takes" to steer the party out of the quagmire he has
landed it in. But others think otherwise, citing the Chief's inability to raise the party beyond
Young educated people these days no longer think along tribal lines. And they will not vote for
NUDO just because it is predominantly Herero. They want a party that is deeply rooted in the
nation, not in a tribal community of sort. The young ones are voting with their feet these days,
flocking to SWAPO Party en masse.
That is Ruruako's current headache. It also defines his encounters with the young turfs within
his own party. Riruako surrounds himself with die-hard tribal lords whose world begins and
ends in Aminuis. These tribal lords' inability to translate NUDO beyond the Herero community
is what is irking the young turfs, most of whom are now saying they could have waited to take a
cue from the DTA young turfs who successfully managed to get rid of their old guards – who had
already been squeezed dry by the former apartheid regime of South Africa, which used them as
puppets to prolong Namibia's independence during the colonial era.
For the NUDO young turfs, it is an uphill battle. DTA's Katuutire Kaura was not a hard
target. He was a soft one. He had no traditional armchair to fall back on. When the axe fell, it fell
straight on his head. And he fell forever. Riruako is a "traditional chief." Or so he claims. But he,
too, is not a traditional chief of repute. Many people in that community look at him as an
arrogant old man who had imposed himself on the community that did not want him in the first
Riruako became "chief" with the help of the apartheid regime of South Africa, with which he
religiously collaborated to prolong Namibia's independence. It is this collaboration that is his
own undoing today. It is this collaboration, too, that has made NUDO irrelevant to the needs and
aspirations of the Namibian people in general, and his own community in particular.
That simply spells the death of NUDO, as Namibians no longer look at themselves as this or
that tribe or ethnic group. That may also be a blessing in disguise for Tjihuiko, taking comfort in
the understanding that the party that ousted him as its Secretary General also has its days
Namibia's political landscape has no place for tribally inspired associations rebranding themselves
as opposition political parties. NUDO started as a progressive movement in the 1960s,
having been formed in September 1964 by the Herero Chiefs Council who had unceremoniously
fallen out with the South West Africa National Union, SWANU. Since then, it slowly but
surely started skirting around the apartheid regime of South Africa, which at that time was busy
balkanizing Namibia into homelands, following recommendations by the notorious Odendaal
NUDO's attempts to endear itself to the apartheid regime came at an opportune time for
Pretoria, which was busy coercing tribal chiefs to form "political parties" in their areas of jurisdiction.
The main objective of this arrangement was to stifle SWAPO's mobilization capacity
and organizational networks in such homelands, using such chiefs to instill fears in their subjects.
Sure enough, NUDO, under the leadership of the late Clemens Kapuuo, joined an internal
arrangement that excluded SWAPO. In 1975, it joined the Turnhalle constitutional talks, eventually
joining the DTA in 1977, with Kapuuo as the DTA's first alliance President.
As part of the DTA, NUDO took part in the 1989 UN-supervised elections. At that time,
Kaura was NUDO's Chairman. He and NUDO's legal advisor, Fanuel Kozonguizi, were among
the DTA's 21 members of parliament. NUDO was among the parties which shared the N$100
million slash-funds which Pretoria distributed among them prior to the implementation of Resolution
435 to ensure that SWAPO did not win the 1989 elections.
But Namibians were not fooled by the money. They knew who the puppets were and who the
true freedom fighters were. The outcome of those elections amplified this, and SWAPO went on
to form the first democratically elected government in 1990. Politics, as they say, is not always
Relations between and among the alliances that formed the DTA went from bad to worse
each succeeding year, culminating in NUDO breaking away from the DTA in 2003, further
weakening the DTA. After long court battles spearheaded by the DTA – which did not want
NUDO to break away – it was registered as a political party in 2004 when the DTA lost its legal
battles in court.
Thus, what we are seeing these days is nothing but the logical and natural cause of its death. It
has outlived its purpose for which it was created. Its biggest success is that it has survived thus
far. Revelations that NUDO now survives on cash loans owned by one of its leaders may be
startling to the uninitiated, but to sharp observers, those are signs of a dying tribal association.
Bickering and squabbles between Tjihuiko and Jahanika are signs of bigger things to come.
In short, NUDO has lost its soul and sense of purpose. Nothing can be done to revive it. With
celebrated master-puppeteers murmuring on the sides, and diehard tribal lords conducting the
orchestra in the background, it will not be long before the boat capsizes. And none among them
will be smelling of roses.