Honorable Billy Mwaningange, Deputy Minister of Defence
Senior Officers and Soldiers of the Namibian Defence Force,
Distinguished invited guests, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. Thank you for joining us today to witness the handover of training aids and support equipment from the United States to the Republic of Namibia. Our purpose in making this contribution of $126,000 in equipment is to strengthen the capability of the Namibian Defence Force to conduct Explosive Ordnance Disposal training for its own personnel.
During Namibia’s struggle for independence, various parts of the country, particularly in the north, suffered the ravages of war. Fighting took place over many years. In the course of it, landmines were placed to fortify positions. Mortars and rockets were fired. Bombs were dropped. But some of the weapons used in the war didn’t explode and can be found even today. The landmines and other unexploded ordnance, the so-called explosive remnants of war, still lie in the long silent fields, ready to release their explosive force when disturbed by the unwary — cattle, farmers, even curious Namibian children.
Just two months ago, we were all reminded of the continuing threat from such explosive remnants of war. On April 23rd, Emilia Shikalopo, a farmer in Omawe village near Oshivelo, uncovered an unexploded 60mm mortar shell left over from the liberation struggle while she was working in her fields with her daughters. The shell detonated when she handled it, killing her and her eight-year-old daughter, and severely wounding two other people.
I think we all want to make sure that no more tragedies like this happen in Namibia.
The United States first began working with the Namibian Defence Force on landmine clearance in this country in 1995. Specialists from our two countries have worked together to combat the problem in the years since. Our collaborative efforts over 20 years resulted in the location and removal of almost all landmines from Namibian territory – more than 5,000 in total.
As we succeeded together in finding and removing landmines, our program focus evolved from de-mining to explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, which has been our primary target in recent years. Despite the major progress we have realized together in locating and neutralizing EOD, the loss of Emilia Shikalopo and her daughter Betina proves that still more effort is required.
To contribute to that effort, the United States is donating this training equipment. We intend as well to continue to provide technical assistance to the NDF as it stands up its own training program on EOD techniques and procedures. Our ultimate goal is for the NDF to have the full and sustained capacity to respond to the lingering threat of the explosive remnants of war wherever they may be in Namibia.
I would like to recognize the Ministry of Defence and the Namibian Defence Force for outstanding leadership in confronting the issue of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Namibia. It is our honor to contribute to your efforts to eliminate a deadly threat to the people of Namibia.
I am confident that by continuing to work together, we will achieve our common goal of a Namibia whose citizens can live peacefully and prosper — free from the threat of landmines and other explosive remnants of Namibia’s liberation struggle.