Freedom in the World
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Namibia is a stable multiparty democracy, though the ruling party, SWAPO, has overwhelmingly won every election since independence. Protections for civil liberties are generally robust. Minority ethnic groups claim that the government favors the majority Ovambo—which dominates SWAPO—in allocating funding and services, and the nomadic San people suffer from poverty and marginalization. Other human rights concerns include the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations under colonial-era laws and discrimination against women under customary law and other traditional societal practices.
- A corruption case dating to 2009 faced further obstacles as the defendants sought to have the trial judge removed.
- Both the state and defendants in a collection of treason cases linked to secessionism in the Caprivi region pursued appeals of their 2015 verdicts during the year.
- In April, authorities temporarily detained two Japanese journalists shortly after they interviewed a cabinet minister about Namibia’s use of North Korean workers on military construction projects. The journalists were released, and their seized equipment was eventually returned.
A long-running corruption trial continued to face delays during 2016, as the Supreme Court heard arguments in June on the defendants’ petition to have the trial judge, Maphios Cheda, removed from the case. Prosecutors accused three business partners—former public service commissioner Teckla Lameck, Jerobeam Mokaxwa, and Chinese national Yang Fan, whose employer had close ties to the Chinese Communist Party—of defrauding the state in 2009 through inflated contract prices, among other offenses. The Supreme Court was still considering Cheda’s removal at year’s end.
Although the High Court issued verdicts in 2015 for the last of more than 100 alleged secessionists who were accused of treason and other crimes related to fighting in Namibia’s Caprivi region between 1998 and 1999, a series of related court proceedings began in 2016. These included defendants’ appeals of their convictions, civil suits against the state by those found not guilty, and state appeals of the acquittals. Hearings were expected to continue in 2017.
The issue of land reform remained a contentious one in 2016. A small white minority owns just under half of Namibia’s arable land, and redistribution has been slow and fraught with disagreement. In August, the radical Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement threatened to take the government to court for failing to make affordable, rent-controlled land available as previously agreed. Disputes over land policy have divided SWAPO in recent years; four SWAPO youth wing officials were reinstated in the party after a court ruled in April that their 2015 expulsions—largely for involvement with or support of AR—had violated the party’s own rules.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Namibia, see Freedom in the World 2016.