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Traditional Authorities  

Traditional authorities play an important role in the rural areas of both the Angolan and Namibian parts of the Kunene River basin. Along with community based institutions they are a major cultural asset when it comes to managing environmental and other types of problems (Burmeister & Partners 1998). Sustainable water management requires their integration in the process of planning, implementation, maintenance and monitoring of all kinds of infrastructure.

The involvement of traditional leaders is crucial for the ownership of local communities.
Source: Tump 2006
( click to enlarge )

Traditional Authorities in Angola

The traditional leaders in the Angolan part of the basin are generally called “sobas”, although the name varies regionally. The sobas are the undoubted leaders of their village and are the key persons for any kind of state or NGO intervention on village level. When the sobas are included in the processes of planning infrastructure, creating Water and Sanitation Groups or developing strategies for sustainable water management, the chances for success are higher. They are able to unite the village and create a high self help potential among the villagers. If they are not involved or if they oppose a project, generally the whole village will follow and the chances for success are extremely low.

Traditional Authorities in Namibia

The Himba, Tjimba and Herero, the major ethnic groups in Kaokoland, are politically organised in chieftaincies. In 1923 the Kaokoland was divided into three reserves with Vita Tom as chief of the Herero, Muhona Katiti as chief of the Himba, and Kahewa-Nawa, as chief of the Tjimba.

The traditional arrangement with only a few powerful chiefs was slowly changed by the South African ad­ministration when they named more chiefs in the 1960s and thus re­stricted the power of each single chief. Above these chiefs there is no overar­ching authority although there is a vague idea that all chiefs are subordinated to the Herero Paramount Chief (Burmeister & Partners 1998). The Namibian side of the Kunene River basin is divided into chiefdoms: the upper part from Ruacana downwards to Enyandi, the following part from Enyandi to Oriokawe, onwards from Oriokawe to Onyezu falls and the remaining stretch from Onyesu to the coast.

As the traditional chiefs are extremely influential, most state agencies and NGOs try to involve them in planning new water infrastructure. This is in part a lesson learnt from the resistance they mounted to plans for the construction of the Epupa dam in the 1990s, which threatened to flood ancestral gravesites .

Today traditional leaders are involved in different capacity development initiatives, in order to enable them to participate more fully in future decision making (Namibia Nature Foundation 2003).




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