THEO-BEN GURIRAB OF NAMIBIA ELECTED PRESIDENT OF FIFTY-FOURTH SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY

BIO/3245
14 September 1999

THEO-BEN GURIRAB OF NAMIBIA ELECTED PRESIDENT OF FIFTY-FOURTH SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY

14 September 1999


Press Release
BIO/3245
GA/9592


THEO-BEN GURIRAB OF NAMIBIA ELECTED PRESIDENT OF FIFTY-FOURTH SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY

19990914 Biographical Note

Theo-Ben Gurirab, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Namibia was today elected President of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Mr. Gurirab has held the position of Foreign Minister since his country became independent in March 1990 and is also a Member of Parliament. A member of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) Central Committee and Politburo, he is also regarded as one of the founding fathers of Namibia.

A seasoned diplomat and negotiator, Mr. Gurirab served for 14 years as SWAPO’s Chief Representative to the United Nations, and later as the Permanent Observer. From 1986 to 1990, he was SWAPO’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Throughout those years, he played a major part in negotiations leading to his country’s independence.

Over the 14 years of Mr. Gurirab’s stewardship as SWAPO’s top diplomat at the United Nations (1972-1986), the organization’s political and diplomatic status grew from that of a petitioner on the sidelines of diplomacy to a mainstream negotiator and participant in the international arena. Through his efforts, Mr. Gurirab made the struggle for Namibian independence a cause célèbre of the international community. The protracted negotiations that produced Security Council resolution 435 (1978), containing an internationally accepted plan to bring independence to Namibia, represented a high point of his career.

In 1989, he was one of the first SWAPO leaders to return home to help organize pre-independence elections. He was also one of the leading SWAPO negotiators of the ceasefire agreement, signed in March 1989, between South Africa’s apartheid regime and SWAPO, which set the pace for elections in Namibia and its transition to independence. Elected in 1989 to Namibia’s Constituent Assembly, Mr. Gurirab was also a key drafter of his country’s Constitution. He holds the title of Dean of African Foreign Ministers as well.

Among his major achievements as Namibia’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Gurirab led three years of negotiations over Walvis Bay, which resulted, in 1994, in its reintegration, and that of the Offshore Islands, into Namibia. In 1995 as the First Vice-Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers, he presided

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over the first Extraordinary Session of the Central Organ of the OAU for the Prevention, Management and Resolution of Conflicts. He is also the co-founder of the African-Latin American Initiative, an organization which brings together the countries of Africa and South America in a network of cooperation, solidarity and partnership aimed at promoting their mutual development.

Mr. Gurirab’s political career began in 1962 when he fled his homeland to the United Republic of Tanzania. He was to remain in political exile for the next 27 years. In 1963, he was awarded a United Nations Fellowship and went to the United States to study. In 1964, he was appointed as one of SWAPO’s troika of Associate Representatives to the United Nations and the Americas.

A United Nations Fellow throughout his university career, in 1998 Mr. Gurirab received an award from the World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows, “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the promotion of human rights, peace and development.”.

Mr. Gurirab graduated with a teaching diploma from the Augustineum Training College in Okahandja, Namibia, in 1960. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1969 from Temple University, Pennsylvania, United States, and a Master of Arts in 1971. Earlier this year he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Namibia, in recognition of his outstanding leadership in the field of foreign policy and diplomacy.

Born on 23 January 1939 in Usakos, Namibia, Mr. Gurirab is married and has two sons.

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For information media. Not an official record.