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Police use tear gas to disperse Itula supporters

Police use tear gas to disperse Itula supporters

Placido Hilukilwa

THE peaceful and intimidation free election campaigns in the northern strongholds was shattered by youthful Itula storm troopers at Ondangwa and Oshakati while all other parties held their elections campaigns without any incident.


Independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula earlier led all parties with the exception of Swapo and Martin Lukato in the campaign at the Electoral Commission of Namibia to not sign the 30-year-old Code of Conduct that aims to regulate peaceful and intimidation free elections.


Itula supporters were the only campaigners present on Saturday evening when they were tear-gassed after holding a fundraising event and driving around the towns.


While condemnation for this incident is streaming in on various social media platforms, the instrument of choice of the Itula group, the presidential candidate campaigning under the Swapo organisation, have not yet spoken out against the actions of his supporters.

Photo: Contributed

At Ondangwa several vehicles carrying Swapo supporters were allegedly temporarily encircled and trapped by the Itula supporters who are now being accused of disrupting the traffic flow and of causing chaos on the streets.


They are also accused of having blocked the main road at Oshakati at a time when the motorcade of President Hage Geingob was about to arrive in the northern town.


The police had to use tear gas and also fired rubber bullets to disperse the unruly crowd.


It is alleged that an unspecified number of people were injured and several cars were damaged.


Pau Pau, a prominent Itula campaigner and organizer of the fundraising event at Oshakati, said that he was briefly detained by the police who “falsely” accused him of having incited people to block the road moments before president Geingob’s motorcade arrived in town from Ondangwa.


However, Pau Pau dismissed the accusation as baseless.


“No one in his right mind would block the presidential motorcade. That is a serious crime. The fact that no one was arrested means the road was not really blocked,” he said.


He added that it was more likely that the police simply did not want the President to see such a huge gathering of Itula supporters along the main road.


At Ondangwa, the Itula supporters allegedly caused a traffic jam that lasted for several hours.


But Itula supporters say that there was no intention from their side to disrupt traffic flow. “What happened was that too many vehicle owners spontaneously joined in what was meant to be an act of maintaining visibility of our campaign on the streets,” said Steven Mvula, an Itula campaigner who was among those who were tear-gassed near the Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo Airport moments before President Geingob landed there.


“The overwhelming support Itula enjoys in the North is causing the other side to become a little panicky. They are now using the police as their proxy in a desperate attempt to suppress the will of the people. In this case, the use of the tear gas and rubber bullets was not really necessary because there was no confrontation between opposing parties,” he said.


Oshana Regional police commander, Commissioner Rauha Amwele, confirmed both incidents at Ondangwa and Oshakati but said that further details will only be released by NamPol Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga when he briefs the nation through the media later today.


Meanwhile, Bishop Lukas Katenda of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church in Namibia (REACH-Namibia) has issued a statement urging young people to remain calm and to avoid confrontation with the police.


He urged the faction of the youth that is demanding change to do so in a calm, orderly, lawful and non violent manner.


He said that the election campaign should not be turned into a mob-like and unruly conduct.


Big and small convoys of other political parties such as Swapo and the PDM were also on the streets of Oshakati, Ongwediva and Ondangwa Friday and Saturday with no incident reported.

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