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Letter - In memoriam: Honouring the late President Hage Gottfried Geingob

2024-02-23  Correspondent

Letter - In memoriam: Honouring the late President Hage Gottfried Geingob

ON behalf of the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia, it is with profound sorrow and deep reflection that I pay tribute to our late President, Hage Gottfried Geingob, who recently departed from our midst. 

His passing leaves an immense void in our hearts and the fabric of our nation, yet his legacy of visionary leadership and unwavering dedication to the betterment of our country shall endure for generations to come.  My interactions with the Head of State span over a decade, beginning with a momentous occasion celebrating his 68th birthday. I vividly recall the sense of honour and privilege as I stood among the earliest guests, alongside esteemed colleagues, Francis Lilungwe, Augustinus Katiti, and Tonata Shiimi. Little did I know that this encounter would mark the inception of a profound connection with our revered leader. 

As the CEO of the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF), my professional journey intersected closely with the strategic vision and environmental ethos championed by President Geingob. 

Through our engagements, I gained invaluable insights into the genesis of Article 95 of the Namibian Constitution, a pivotal legislative framework that underscores our nation’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable development. 

 The genesis of our nation’s environmental journey is traced back to the return of our esteemed Founding President Sam Nujoma from exile in 1990. Witnessing the stark environmental degradation wrought by colonial rule, Nujoma, alongside President Geingob and other visionary leaders, took decisive action to embed principles of environmental sustainability within our national fabric. 

This culminated in enshrining sustainable use of natural resources in the Namibian Constitution, and we became the first country in the world to have environmental sustainability as a Constitutional imperative. 

To operationalise the principles outlined in Article 95, the Namibian Green Plan was conceived in 1992, a landmark seminal document that set the stage for creating the EIF. 

 In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Namibia made history by presenting the Namibia Green Plan, a pioneering initiative that showcased the country’s commitment to environmental sustainability on the global stage. 

This strategic move, undertaken by a newly sovereign state, was not only symbolic but also underscored Namibia’s proactive approach to addressing pressing environmental challenges. Remarkably, the development of the Namibia Green Plan predates key conventions such as those on biodiversity, desertification, and climate change, highlighting the foresight and vision of Namibia’s leaders. This historical initiative serves as testament to the wisdom and forward-thinking mindset of President Geingob, leaving a legacy for future generations. 

Shortly after the launch of the National Development Plan 1, the Namibian government commenced its policy research and consultation efforts to establish the EIF, culminating in its official establishment in 2001 through Parliamentary Legislation. 

Despite encountering initial fiscal constraints stemming from competing investment priorities in critical social sectors like health, education, and combating HIV/AIDS, which temporarily delayed its operational launch, the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia embarked on its transformative mission in 2012. 

Since then, it has spearheaded pioneering initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable resource management and addressing climate change challenges.   Since ratifying the Paris Agreement in 2016, President Geingob consistently advocated the integration of environmental sustainability and climate change commitments into Namibia’s national agenda.  This commitment has been evident through his emphasis on these issues in the State of the Nation Addresses  and participation in United Nations General Assembly events, showcasing Namibia’s dedication to addressing global environmental challenges. Furthermore, tangible steps have been taken at the national level to translate this commitment into action, such as the ongoing review of the Carbon Market Framework.  The embodiment of this commitment can be seen in the Harambee Prosperity Plan 2, championed by President Geingob, which underscores Namibia’s steadfast dedication to sustainable development. This comprehensive plan outlines ambitious objectives aimed at fostering inclusive growth, enhancing environmental resilience, and promoting social prosperity. 

Notably, President Geingob has taken proactive steps to spearhead the development and implementation of green hydrogen initiatives within Namibia. Through our collaborative efforts with the Office of the Presidency, led by Economic Advisor James Mnyupe, valuable insights and lessons have been gleaned, shaping both my professional endeavours and personal ethos. It is indeed a profound honour and privilege to align with President Geingob’s visionary leadership, and I remain steadfastly committed to embodying the principles espoused by his vision in all facets of life. 

President Geingob’s dedication to environmental sustainability garnered international recognition, exemplified by leading the first cohort of countries to develop Sustainable Ocean Plans by 2025. One of the pivotal moments in Namibia’s journey towards sustainable development occurred during a state visit to France on 29 November 2016. President Geingob, accompanied by a delegation of officials, including representatives from the EIF, signed a landmark 46 million euro pact for renewable energy and sustainable agriculture investment in Namibia. 

This momentous agreement laid the foundation for a vibrant green economy pathway in Namibia, marking a significant step towards reducing carbon emissions and fostering sustainable development as well as crowding in the domestic private sector to participate in the low carbon investments.  

Likewise, President Geingob unequivocally supported Namibia’s endeavour to host the Green Climate Fund headquarters, a clear indication of our nation’s leadership in the global fight against climate change. 

Despite Namibia initially losing the bid to host the Green Climate Fund, President Geingob demonstrated unwavering commitment by personally addressing the Board of the Green Climate Fund on 05 April 2017.  I was honoured and privileged to personally deliver the letter to the Board of the Green Climate Fund in South Korea, articulating Namibia’s keen interest in hosting the African Green Climate Fund office, an undisputable demonstration of President Geingob’s dedication to climate action and environmental stewardship.  

In the wake of devastating environmental crises such as the drought of 2019, President Geingob’s ensured swift and decisive action to safeguard our nation’s most vulnerable communities. 

His advocacy for environmental resilience and climate adaptation resonated deeply with the ethos of the EIF of Namibia, leading to significant grant funding for vital interventions aimed at enhancing our nation’s resilience to climate-related challenges. Notably, on 11 June 2019, President Geingob led the distribution of more than N$85 million in grants to support targeted interventions aimed at enhancing the resilience of rural communities affected by climate change in Namibia. 

This critical support came at a crucial time, as Namibia grappled with the devastating impacts of a severe drought that affected over 700 000 people and prompted the declaration of a State of Emergency due to drought-related natural disasters across all regions of Namibia. 

As we reflect on the profound loss of a remarkable leader, let us find solace and strength in the enduring legacy of President Geingob, whose unwavering dedication to environmental stewardship and the welfare of our nation has left an indelible mark on our collective consciousness. On behalf of the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia, I extend my deepest condolences to the Geingob family, including the esteemed third first
lady of Namibia Monica Geingos. 

To Nangula Geingos, with whom I have forged a close bond over the years, may the spirit of our President continue to illuminate our path forward, inspiring us to pursue a future of sustainability and prosperity that honours his remarkable legacy and uplift the lives of all Namibians. 

 * Benedict Libanda is the chief executive officer of the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia.

2024-02-23  Correspondent

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