Did you know that Finland has been present in Namibia since the 1870s? The first Finns to arrive here were Lutheran missionaries from the Finnish Missionary Society who were assigned their first venture outside of Finland in Ovamboland in Namibia. They established schools and health care facilities, and went on over the years to ordain many Namibian Ministers who took over the Missionary which later became known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Namibia. In fact, the new Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, the Honourable Zephania Kameeta, served many roles within the church including Vice-President, Deputy Bishop and Bishop. The church also played a notable role in highlighting the plight of Namibians under South African rule, and in the struggle for Namibia’s independence. Just one of the many injustices that played out during the church’s support for independence included the incarceration of Minister Kameeta in 1975. He was detained under the Terrorism Act while addressing an NNC meeting in Katutura to protest against the Turnhalle Constitutional Conference. He was kept in darkness and solitary confinement for a fortnight.
In 1990, when independence was finally won, Finland was one of the first countries with whom Namibia established diplomatic relations. Namibia also became one of Finland’s main partner countries in the field of development cooperation. Between 1991 and 2003 alone, Finland invested more than 74 million euros in financing in Namibia. And their investment continues to date with their Fund for Local Cooperation that is directed towards the development of civil society, democracy and human rights, and the support for culture.
Given the extensive work that Finland undertakes in Namibia, we were thrilled, to say the least, when we were visited on Friday, June 5th, by three officials from the Embassy of Finland: Mrs. Elisabet Kivimäki, Deputy Head of Mission, Mrs. Marika Matengu, Programme Coordinator, and Ms. Niina Lääperi, FLC Coordination Assistant. Our visitors took a tour of Family of Hope Services’ new centre in Havana, Katutura and we were able to showcase some of the programmes that we offer.