Remarks by Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield at a UN General Assembly Tribute to the Memory of President Hage Gottfried Geingob of the Republic of Namibia

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 7, 2024

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. And good afternoon, everyone.

This is a sad day among so many sad days. We sadly gather here today to celebrate the life of a dedicated public servant, a fierce advocate for liberty and democracy, and on a personal level, a beloved friend.

On behalf of the United States, the host country, I extend my deepest condolences to his family and to the people of Namibia.

I first met President Geingob just over a decade ago in Kenya. We happened to be seated next to each other at an event. And while I don’t remember much about that event, I do remember being immediately taken by the then-Prime Minister’s signature charisma and idealism.

In fact, we were just making small talk when he paused and he said, without a hint of irony: “You know, I am going to be the next President of Namibia.” And I laughed. And I told him how many times I heard that phrase uttered across Africa by so many wannabe presidents. But he was unfazed. And he extended me an invitation to his inauguration.

Well, we know what happened next. President Geingob did, in fact, become President Geingob. And as for that invitation? Well, my friend kept his word. I was, indeed, invited to watch him take the oath of office. Unfortunately, the flights were a bit less reliable than the President-elect, and I missed the plane, and I missed the inauguration.

But if there was a silver lining of this travel mishap, it was that I now had an excuse to visit Namibia, and the President, on my own time. Over the years, I did just that: travelling to Namibia in my role as Assistant Secretary for Africa, for vacation after I retired, and just this past December, as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

And I saw first-hand that the president didn’t just have lofty expectations for himself. He had high, high hopes. He had hopes for the country he loved and for the country who loved him. Hopes that he met with action: Helping liberate Namibia from the chains of colonialism and apartheid; overseeing the drafting of the country’s new constitution; working, as Prime Minister and then President, to reduce economic inequality, widen the social safety net, improve public health, and fight against climate change. All – all while modeling the values of respect and reconciliation for his country and for people across the continent.

It is notable – though unsurprising – that President Geingob died as he lived: with transparency and courageous vulnerability.

Hage Geingob was a freedom fighter, he was a respected leader, he was an African icon, and he was also a farmer. He planted, and he ploughed, and he prayed for rain. He believed in the power of farmers to fight food insecurity and lift up entire communities. And he understood that sometimes, you plant seeds that you don’t live to see bloom. That the best any farmer, any leader, can do is couple true faith with hard work and empower the next generation to do the same.

And so, the charge before us is simple: to tend the seeds that President Geingob so lovingly sowed. The seeds of democracy and equality, of opportunity and justice. That is how we honor his legacy. And that is how we create a better Namibia, a better continent, and a better world.

With his really infectious laugh and his contagious smile, Hage Geingob will be sorely missed. He will be missed by his family, his friends, the world, and by me.

Thank you very much.

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