Namibian President and anti-apartheid activist Hage Gingop has died. He put Africa on the world stage

WINDHOEK, Namibia — Namibia's president and founding prime minister Hage Keingobe died on Sunday at the age of 82 after being treated for cancer.

After returning from long exile in Botswana and the United States as an anti-apartheid activist, Keingobe played a key role in what became one of Africa's most stable democracies. He was the country's third president since independence in 1990 following more than a century of German and then apartheid South African rule.

He has been president since 2015 and was set to complete his second and final term this year. His deputy, Nangolo Mbumba, was sworn in as acting president in the capital Windhoek to complete his constitutionally-mandated term.

Elections will be held in November. A government statement says Mbumba will lead Namibia until March 21 next year, when the winner takes office.

Zinkob died at a local hospital with his family by his side, the president's office said. He returned to Namibia last month from the United States, where he underwent a two-day trial of a “novel therapy for cancer cells.” In 2014, he claimed to have survived prostate cancer.

Soft but firm in pushing the agenda of Africa as a key player in world affairs – “It would be an injustice to exclude Africa from the Security Council,” he once said in a United Nations address – Geingob maintained close ties with the US and other Western countries. Countries but, like many African leaders, have developed a cordial relationship with China and other powers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the leaders to send condolences on Sunday, saying he would “forever cherish” his memories of meeting Keingop. “It is difficult to overestimate his personal contribution to the development of friendly relations between Namibia and Russia,” a statement said.

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Geingob hosted US First Lady Jill Biden last year ahead of her husband's anticipated trip to Africa in 2023. It didn't happen.

With a population of over 2.5 million, Namibia is rich in minerals such as diamonds, gold and uranium. Despite being classified as an upper-middle income country according to the World Bank, socioeconomic inequalities are still widespread.

But Opposition Leader McHenry Venany paid tribute on Sunday.

“Indeed, the demise of President Keingop is a great loss not only to Namibia but to the entire African continent,” Venani said. “Such was the skill of this master negotiator and statesman who became a beacon of steadfast leadership in turbulent times.”

As Namibia's first Prime Minister from 1990 to 2002, and in the same position from 2008 to 2012, Gyeongbob can be outspoken on issues at home and abroad. In January, the former colonial master criticized Germany for supporting Israel after South Africa sued Israel at the International Court of Justice, accusing it of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

“Germany cannot demonstrate moral commitment to the United Nations Convention against Genocide, including atonement for the genocide in Namibia, while at the same time supporting a massacre and the equivalent of genocide in Gaza,” Kienkopf said.

He refers to events in Namibia between 1904 and 1908 when colonial security forces killed tens of thousands of people while putting down a rebellion. In 2021 Germany acknowledged that these measures amounted to genocide and pledged more than $1 billion for infrastructure projects in the country.

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Condolences poured in from African leaders on Sunday.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described Gingop as “an outstanding veteran of Namibia's liberation from colonialism and apartheid”.

Kenyan President William Ruto said he “strongly promoted the continent's voice and visibility on the world stage”.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa posted on X that Geingob's “leadership and resilience will be remembered.”


Mutsaka reports from Harare, Zimbabwe.


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