Meeting each other halfway
The Namibian government has called on the government of Angola to consider reopening its borders in the interest of residents of both countries, particularly those living along the common border.
The executive director of the Namibian defence ministry, Dr Wilhelmine Shivute, made this call at the opening of the plenary meeting of the 21st session of the Namibia/Angola joint commission on defence and security taking place in Swakopmund from 2 to 4 November. Shivute said that the continued closure of the border has led to an increase in illegal business activities through ungazetted border points. “Similarly, it affected the education of Angolan learners who commute daily to attend school in Namibia. It further restricted access to medical care, particularly for those who have chronic health problems and those seeking specialised medical care.”
According to the Shivute, the possibility of reopening the common borders was fruitfully discussed by the Angolan and Namibian and ministers of Home Affairs/Internal Affairs at their bilateral meeting held in Lubango from 21 to 23 April this year; as well as by the Foreign Affairs ministers during a virtual meeting on 3 May 2021.
Officials from various defence and security institutions of both countries are convening for the three-day bilateral meeting to discuss issues that both countries face.
Admiral José Maria de Lima, the Secretary of State for the National Defence of Angola, and co-chairperson, as well as governors of Namibia and Angola, joined defence officials for the occasion.
Shivute said that De Lima agrees that peace and security are important for socio-economic development and the strengthening of cordial bilateral relations.
She added that Namibia continues to place a high value on its bilateral relations with Angola, characterised by strong bonds of friendship, solidarity and cooperation that have existed between the two countries for many years. Since the last meeting held in Angola in 2018, the two countries have enjoyed a climate of peace and stability, joint aspirations which have enabled them to continue on a route of economic development and prosperity.
Shivute highlighted that a severe drought was experienced in some parts of both countries during 2019, resulting in residents who survive on agriculture for their livelihood losing countless livestock and agricultural production capacity. “The two countries need to continue sharing information on drought preparedness, as well as to work out joint collaborative efforts to enhance the resilience of communities to reduce drought vulnerability and risks,” she emphasised. She listed the global outbreak of Covid-19, which negatively impacted the social and economic development of both countries and continues to pose a severe risk to the overall wellbeing of nations, as one of the most serious challenges that has confronted the two countries.
She added that the neighbouring countries continue to implement the mutual Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the control, prevention and eradication of cross border animal diseases. “The veterinary authorities of the two countries are encouraged to continue their cooperation in the implementation and harmonisation of disease surveillance activities, to control and eradicate transboundary animal diseases.” The health authorities of Namibia and Angola are also collaborating within the framework of a bilateral cooperation agreement in the field of health, on several issues such as joint immunisation campaigns, integrated epidemiological surveillance and the management of communicable diseases in the communities living along the common border.
Shivute also listed incidences of money counterfeiting, the smuggling of illicit goods such as cigarettes, liquor, foodstuff and fuel as challenges faced by the two countries. “This has a negative impact on the economy of our countries. Similarly, motor vehicle theft, stock theft, human trafficking, and drug trafficking also remain a matter of concern.” She said that this calls for vigilance and encouraged law enforcement agencies to continue sharing information and coordinating their efforts to prevent and combat these crimes. “Notwithstanding, the security situation along our common border appears to have progressed well despite the unfortunate closure of the border that has hindered and affected the livelihoods and cross border trade,” Shivute concluded.