Statement by Sean MacBride

United Nations Commissioner for Namibia

Having had the honour and privilege of presiding over the Special NGO Committee on Human Rights since its inception until this year and having participated in the birth of this Conference I am glad to have the opportunity of addressing the Conference today.

I think that at the time we decided upon the holding of this international conference some of us had anticipated that Guinea-Bissau would have been liberated and that Angola and Mozambique would be on the threshold of independence by the time this international conference would assemble in Geneva. We knew that the liberation of these countries was near at hand but had not expected it to be achieved so quickly. It is important that the liberation impetus which has thus been gained in the former Portuguese colonies should be maintained until the whole of Southern Africa is freed.

In my view Namibia will be freed in the near future. South Africa will not be able to seal the border between Angola and Namibia and will have to relinquish its illegal and inhuman occupation of Namibia. The more pressure is exerted now by governments and the NGOs the sooner will Namibia be freed. The sooner South Africa retreats from Namibia, the more lives will be saved and the less bloodshed will take place. Accordingly, by stepping up pressure now on South Africa NGOs and governments can assist in saving lives. By remaining silent or just passive governments are inevitably ensuring more and more bloodshed. Also by remaining silent in the face of the oppression to which the Namibian people are being subjected by South Africa, governments are condoning the gross violations of human rights which are taking place daily in Namibia. Public floggings and torture of prisoners form part of the governmental system. There are, in addition, persistent reports of massacres of Namibians. If people, men and girls alike, were arrested, stripped naked and flogged publicly because of their political affiliations in any other portion of the world there would be public uproar. But because this happens in Namibia there is virtual silence in the world press and in the mass media. A much greater sense of urgency to put an end to this inhuman and brutal regime must be developed among NGOs and must be conveyed clearly to governments.

Apart from seeking to protect the people of Namibia from the savagery of this colonialist and racist oppression, there are other considerations which are vitally important. There is in the world of today a certain feeling of disbelief or cynicism as to the effectiveness of the United Nations and of the International Court of Justice. In no other case have there been so many decisions of the United Nations based on the Advisory Opinions of the International Court of Justice; these decisions have been flagrantly flouted by South Africa, itself a member of the United Nations. The failure to implement the decisions of the United Nations in regard to Namibia has created a sense of frustration and a credibility gap as to the effectiveness of the United Nations.  Accordingly, quite apart from the injustice and immorality of South Africa’s actions in Namibia, our failure to liberate Namibia is damaging to the United Nations and to the rule of international law. It is clear therefore that NGOs as well as governments have a  special duty to assist the UN to render effective the liberation of Namibia.

These are the principal issues which I trust this conference will convey to governments.