THE densely populated Okalongo area of the Omusati Region was for many years just one of the districts headed by a senior headman under the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority (OuTA) even though the overwhelming majority of the area’s residents belonged to a separate traditional community: Ombadja.
In the late 1990s a spontaneous separatist movement started demanding “independence from Oukwanyama” because of the feeling that they were a separate traditional community that deserved to have their separate traditional authority.
The Traditional Authorities Act (Act 25 of 2000) recognizes as a traditional community any “indigenous homogeneous, endogamous social grouping of persons” comprising of families deriving from exogamous clans which share a common ancestry, language, cultural heritage, customs and traditions, recognizes a common traditional authority and inhabits a common communal area.
The district broke away from Oukwanyama and hard words fell between the separatists and some senior politicians and a few traditional leaders of Oukwanyama who resisted the move.
However, in 2002 the government responded positively to the demands and the process went ahead smoothly.
Senior Headman Matias Walaula, then head of the Okalongo district, became Chief Matias Walaula, head of the Ombadja Traditional Authority.
Now aged 78, Walaula looks back with fond memories and is proud of what the Ombadja traditional community has achieved under his leadership.
Speaking in a brief interview in the tribal office – constructed under his watch years ago – Walaula said: “We travelled a long road and encountered serious challenges, but we forged ahead relentlessly, a determined and united people. We fought hard, knocked on the doors of Government and the private sector. The result is as you can see,” he said.
Referring to the Onandjaba settlement where his office is located, Walaula said: “Here was nothing when I took over as senior headman in 1988 and later as the Chief in the early 2000s. Now we have tap water, tarred and gravel roads, schools, electricity, health facilities, government offices and a multitude of businesses, including a filling station.”
He singled out the Wakashamane Border Post as one of the clearest examples of the government’s responsiveness to his people’s demands.
He said the border post facilitates the movement of people and goods and promotes cross-border trade between Namibia and Angola.
Meanwhile, the border post is currently a ghost facility, with nothing going on due to the closure of the border following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The only people who use it daily are Angolan children who attend schools in Namibia.