New Namibian political party
by International Herald Tribune
Former members of Namibia's ruling party have launched a new political movement, hoping to tap into support of young people in the face of rising unemployment and poverty.
It was the strongest challenge to the South West Africa People's Organization since Namibia's independence in 1990.
On Saturday, former Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutenya and Jesaya Nyamu, a former trade minister, launched the Rally for Democracy and Progress, or RDP.
Hamutenya resigned two weeks ago from parliament after 30 years as a SWAPO member, citing a lack of new ideas and a repressive political atmosphere.
"The RDP has been born in response to our people's deep longing for a vision, political direction and the rekindling of their hopes and aspiration for a better and prosperous future," he said at the launch.
Today in Africa & Middle East
As violence in Iraq diminishes, Iran's role is debated
U.S. sets ambitious agenda for Mideast talks
28 killed in Saudi pipeline explosion
Hamutenya was snubbed by the former guerrilla movement in 2004 in an acrimonious race to nominate a candidate to replace former President Sam Nujoma. Nujoma controversially pushed forward Hifikepunye Pohamba, the country's incumbent president.
One of southern Africa's liberation heroes, Nujoma led the desert country since independence from apartheid South Africa, following a 27-year-long bush war. He stepped down in 2004 to make way for Pohamba, but remained at the helm of the party.
More than 1,000 people — mostly young people — attended the launch of the new party held outside the sprawling township of Katutura, near the SWAPO headquarters in the capital, Windhoek.
The ruling party will hold a key meeting later this month that will decide on a new president following the announcement by Nujoma that he was not re-standing for the post.
Hamutenya said there was urgent need in Namibia to restore democracy and vowed to fight a culture of fear that was seeing the country slide into "yet another era of regression" marked by a collapse in health and educational services, growing poverty, unemployment and a stagnant economy.
In the sparsely populated country of 2 million people, 40 percent of Namibians live below the poverty line, 31 percent of the urban population is unemployed and nearly 80 of rural households do not have proper sanitation or access to electricity.
The new party counts among its ranks former trade unionists, former deputy ministers and former heads of state parastatals.
However, the government recently dismissed claims that RDP was a threat to the ruling party, with Prime Minister Nahas Angula describing it as a "paper party" and "a protest party against an individual."