Diplomats from African nation studying Nevada
Peya Mushelenga, Niklaas Kandjii and Obrien Simasiku were entranced with their recent two-day, familiarization visit to Nevada.
The three diplomats from the southwest African nation of Namibia conferred with Reno attorney Victor Perry, their nation’s honorary consul in Nevada, attended a reception in their honor sponsored by the Nevada Consular Corps and its Chief of Protocol Gayle Anderson, and met with several state business leaders during their whirlwind trip.
But because of time restraints, they had no time to visit several places on their “must do” list such as Carson City, Silver City, Virginia City, Fallon, Elko, UNR and the Desert Research Institute.
“We’ll be back soon with our ambassador to the United States for a much longer visit, and these locations we missed will be the major focuses of our itinerary,” said Simasiku, first secretary of the Embassy of Namibia in Washington, D.C.
During their next trip here, Simasiku, along with his traveling companions Mushelenga, Namibia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, and Kandjii, the deputy director of foreign affairs, also plan to visit with Gov. Brian Sandoval, tour the state Capitol, visit Lake Tahoe, and learn more about the state’s mining industry because mining is one of their nation’s prime revenue sources.
“Mining, along with agriculture and tourism, is critically important to our economy,” said Mushelenga, whose nation has a population of 2.1 million, is almost three times the physical size of Nevada and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Angola, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.
“We mine gold, gem diamonds, uranium, silver and base metals such as copper, lead and zinc. Because of Northern Nevada’s mining history, we want to visit Virginia City and Silver City to learn how you have protected the environment and ended pollution at the abandoned and closed mines there,” said Kandjii.
“We also want to meet professors at the Mackay School of Mines at the Reno university to inquire about current mining practices and discuss ecological issues with scientists at the Desert Research Institute,” he added.
In Fallon, the diplomats on their future visit desire to meet with local dairy leaders, and in Elko they will seek to learn about the state’s cattle and sheep industries.
“The cattle industry is particularly important to our economy. We export boneless steaks to European nations. The meat comes from free-range cattle which, by law, cannot be fed artificially-grown hormones,” he said.
Namibia, the three men noted, is like Nevada in some aspects. It has vast deserts and sand dunes, legalized gambling and casinos, and, of course, the mining, cattle and sheep industries.
But unlike Nevada, Namibia has numerous roaming herds of antelope, cheetahs, lions, rhinos, oryxes that resemble gazelles, and huge game parks where tourists observe the animals in their native habitats, said Mushelenga.
Namibia, whose population is overwhelmingly black, was initially inhabited by nomadic tribes of Bushmen and Bantus, and evidence of these people is found on rock paintings in caves and on hillsides that date back 28,000 years. Portuguese explorers arrived in the 16th century and Germany proclaimed the land a colony in 1894, naming it Southwest Africa. Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, South Africa annexed the land and continued Germany’s policy of apartheid or racial segregation.
Seeking independence from South Africa, Namibians soon formed a guerrilla army, fought pitched battles with South African forces and in 1990 the nation became independent. It then changed its name from Southwest Africa to Namibia, which was taken from the vast coastal desert of Namib that means “vast place.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Mushelenga said he joined the guerrilla army during its fight for independence from South Africa when he was only nine years old.
“Our family home was targeted by the South African forces, my sister was killed by them, I was shot in the back, I hid in the brush from the South Africans, and I went into exile abroad before returning home to participate in our independence movement,” said Mushelenga who also is a member of Namibia’s parliament.
“Today, Namibia has friendly relations with South Africa, we belong to the United Nations and other international agencies, we are a multi-party democracy, we have a non-aligned foreign policy, excellent relations with the United States and want to cooperate with Nevada on several economic and environmental issues,” he said.
“We urge you to come to Namibia. Our capital, Windhoek, is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city. We have magnificent game parks, a UN World Heritage site and vast deserts where travelers enjoy ecotourism.”
David. C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.