Namibia Names as Army Boss Ex-Guerrilla Chief Accused of Torture
WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) _ Namibia named as its army chief Tuesday a former SWAPO guerrilla commander accused of torturing suspected spies and dissidents.
The Defense Forces announced in a one-line statement that Maj. Gen. Solomon Dumeni Hawala was appointed army commander, effective immediately.
The position had been vacant since Namibia, formerly South-West Africa, became independent on March 21.
An opposition party, the Namibian Patriotic Front, condemned Tuesday’s appointment.
Hawala was a fighter in the South-West Africa People’s Organization, or SWAPO, which waged a 23-year battle for independence against South Africa.
Hawala, commonly called Jesus Hawala, also has been called the Butcher of Lubango, a town in southern Angola where SWAPO had a camp during the war.
People formerly held in SWAPO camps in Angola on suspicion of being spies or dissidents have accused Hawala of supervising widespread torture.
The Namibian Society for Human Rights, a private group, accuses SWAPO of failing to account for an estimated 1,500 people detained during the war. A U.N. commmission of inquiry last year put the figure at just over 300.
SWAPO official Theo-Ben Gurirab, who became Namibian foreign minister after independence, acknowledged in August 1989 that some detainees were tortured, but said all were released.
Under an independence plan, Namibia wrote a constitution and held democratic elections last year that were won by SWAPO.
SWAPO President Sam Nujoma became Namibia’s first president.
Namibia’s infant democracy has been widely praised for its fairness and moves toward reconciliation, but Hawala’s appointment could reopen old wounds.
The SWAPO Youth League has demanded removal of opposition members of Parliament it accuses of being puppets for South Africa.
SWAPO party leader Moses Garoeb has attacked the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, the largest opposition party, as disrupting national unity.