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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Success in Namibia



The images of the Namibian election flashing on television screens around the globe seemed to provide a human face to the ‘new world order’ that promised so much at the end of the Cold War. In blazing heat, long lines of tribesmen and women, in their best clothes, or sporting the colours of their political parties, waited patiently in the dust to cast their votes in the country's first free and fair election. Thousands of Namibians had worked, prayed, agitated and fought for this day. They had been assisted by friendly countries and, importantly, by the United Nations, which was now supervising the whole peace process. After five days of voting, emotions were released on the evening of 11 November 1989 when the UN Special Representative, Martti Ahtisaari, announced that the election had indeed been ‘free and fair’. Ahtisaari's top assistant, Cedric Thornberry, wrote in his diary that suddenly ‘everyone was in the front office, laughing and crying…The Brits arrived, many of the South Africans, and some of the Frontline. A wonderful, spontaneous, happy party.’ But the images did not dominate the world's television screens. Events in Europe seemed even more dramatic, for in Berlin the hated Wall was falling at just the same time. Nonetheless, the election was an outstanding achievement and a giant step along the road to peace.

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