The man who died for freedom

At the end of October every year, thousands of people from all over Namibia come together in the town of Gibeon. They come together to remember a brave fighter and a great leader. The people of Namibia will never forget Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi.

Kaptein Witbooi was one of the first people in Namibia to begin the struggle for freedom. He fought for freedom. And he died for freedom.

Kaptein’ Hendrik Witbooi died in 1905. He was killed in the war against the German rulers of Namibia. Germany ruled Namibia until the end of the First World War. When Germany lost the war, they also lost Namibia.

After the war, the people of Namibia still did not get their freedom. Instead they got new rulers from another country. Their new rulers came from South Africa.

The Germans killed thousands of people in Namibia. Before the Germans came to Namibia, there were 80 thousand Herero people. When the Germans left, there were only 20 thousand Herero people left. When the Germans came, there were 20 thousand Nama people. When they left, there were only four thousand Nama people left.

When the people of Namibia meet in Gibeon every year, they stand at the grave of Kaptein Witbooi and they remember the past. They remember the cruel German rulers and their dead heroes. They talk about their long struggle for freedom. And they talk about the lessons they have learned from their struggle.

“We have learned some very important lessons from our struggle,” said Pastor Hendrik Witbooi last year. He is the leader of the Nama people and the great grandson of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi. In the war against the Germans the people of Namibia did not stand together. The Herero and the Nama people did not unite in their struggle.

“The people of Namibia were at war with themselves. If the people of Namibia had fought together, they maybe could have won the war against the Germans. But we were divided. And when people are divided, they won’t win any struggle. They will always lose.”

Pastor Witbooi does not talk empty words. Today he and his people are loyal members of Swapo—the organisation that fights for freedom in Namibia. Pastor Witbooi himself is the vice—president of Swapo.

And some people say that only the Ovambo people believe in Swapo. How wrong they are! The people of Namibia have learned from their past.

But when the people meet in Gibeon every year, they don’t only feel sad. They also feel happy. Old friends meet each other and talk about old times. The people sing and dance. And the young people learn about the history and culture of their people.

They feel proud and strong when they watch the men ride their horses through the dusty streets of Gibeon. The men wear the same uniforms that Kaptein Witbooi and his soldiers wore. And they sit proudly and straight up on their hourses — just like Kaptein Witbooi and his men did.

And the people clap loudly when the men on the horses come to the grave of Kaptein Witbooi. Then the men ride very fast around the grave. When they are finished, they fire three shots from their guns. And the people stand there together—strong and united.

After two days have passed, the people say goodbye to each other until they meet again the next year. Then they make their way to their homes in the different parts of Namibia.

On the way home they think about the brave Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi and all the other people who have died in the struggle for freedom. And they think about the future. A hundred years have passed and they are still not free. They know that the work of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi is not yet finished.

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