Namibia was already scheduled to hold presidential and legislative elections this year, with Geingob announcing last year that his political party, South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), would put forward Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as its presidential candidate. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Nandi-Ndaitwah described Geingob as “a true democratic and a transformational leader who touched many lives.”
Geingob, who had served as president since 2015, played a center-stage role on Namibia’s political scene since it became the last country on the continent to decolonize in 1990, following a nearly quarter century of armed conflict with apartheid South Africa.
In a statement Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described Geingob as “a towering veteran of Namibia’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid. He was also greatly influential in the solidarity that the people of Namibia extended to the people of South Africa so that we could be free today.”
Between 1990 and 2002, Geingob served as the country’s first prime minister after chairing the committee that formulated Namibia’s first constitution.
The Namibian people, he said at the time of the country’s constitutional convention in 1989, “have given us a mandate to hammer out and adopt in a spirit of compromise, a spirit of give and take, a constitution that will launch our country and people into nationhood.”
In 2017, Geingob, who was educated in the United States, attended a U.N. General Assembly event in New York City during which President Donald Trump made two references to “Nambia.” Geingob did not react publicly to the error, which was corrected in a White House transcript of Trump’s comments.
Last month, Geingob denounced Germany for defending Israel from accusations of genocide in Gaza, referring to a genocide committed against Namibia’s population by its former German colonizer that killed at least 75,000 people.
“On Namibian soil, #Germany committed the first genocide of the 20th century in 1904-1908, in which tens of thousands of innocent Namibians died in the most inhumane and brutal conditions,” Geingob said in a statement.
With a territory larger than Texas and a population of under 2.8 million, Namibia is one of the world’s least densely populated countries. “We don’t have to fight over land because there is enough to go around,” Geingob said in 1993.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the country is rich in natural resources but has had a falling GDP per capita in recent years. Namibia ranks as one of the world’s most unequal countries, the World Bank said, and a U.N. report last year found that about 40 percent of the population lives in poverty.
Namibia was colonized by Germany and later administered by a white-minority government controlled by South Africa. SWAPO, Geingob’s party that has governed the country since its independence, launched a guerrilla war in 1966 that culminated in a U.S.-brokered peace plan and elections in 1989.