WINDHOEK – Theo-Ben Gurirab was born on 23 January, 1938 in Usakos in the Erongo Region.
He was one of the Swapo members of the Constituent Assembly, which sat from November 1989 to March 1990.
Gurirab was the Minister of Foreign Affairs from independence in 1990 until his appointment as Prime Minister by the then president Sam Nujoma, on 27 August 2002, replacing Hage Geingob.
While serving as foreign minister he was elected as the President of the United Nations General Assembly on 14 September, 1999, serving in that position until September 2000.
Following the 2004 elections, Gurirab was elected as Speaker of the National Assembly at the beginning of the new parliamentary term on 20 March, 2005. He received the sixth highest number of votes – 377 – in the election to the Central Committee of Swapo at the party’s August 2002 congress. He was again one of the highest scoring candidates in the election to the Central Committee at Swapo’s November 2007 congress.
Gurirab was one of the thousands who contributed a great deal to the liberation of Namibia that was colonised by the apartheid South African regime that segregated blacks who were regarded as second-class citizens.
According to his biography in the National Archives of Namibia, Gurirab graduated with a teaching diploma in 1960 from Augustineum Training College, which at the time was located in Okahandja.
Gurirab’s journey into exile began in 1962, after the United Nations passed a resolution in 1961 that pledged support for oppressed African countries, whereby help was given to Namibians living outside the country. Without wasting time Gurirab went to the magistrate‘s office and obtained legal documents that changed his nationality to a Malawian citizen (Nyasaland) and it allowed him to travel outside the country.
In 1963, he was awarded a United Nations Fellowship and later went to the United States for further studies. He was appointed as one of Swapo’s troikas of Associate Representatives to the United Nations and the Americas in 1964 and obtained a degree in Political Science in 1969 from the University of Temple in Pennsylvania. He did postgraduate studies in International Relations in 1971.
According to the National Museum biography, Gurirab was appointed to serve as Swapo’s Chief Representative to the United Nations and was later appointed as the Permanent Observer until 1986.
He also served as the Senior Adviser to the Swapo president and was the regular Swapo spokesman, making some of the movement’s most important announcements, including the acceptance of the Western initiative in June 1977 after the OAU summit in Libreville, Gabon.
He also served as Swapo’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1986. Gurirab was a key drafter of the country’s Constitution and played a major part in negotiations leading to independence.
He was one of the first Swapo leaders to return home in 1989 to help with organizing the pre-independence elections, as well as one of the leading Swapo negotiators of the cease-fire agreement, which was signed in March 1989.
Gurirab has earned many different awards, one of which was the award of an Honorary Professorship of Foreign Affairs at a college in China.
In 1999 he was awarded a Honorary Doctorate of Law by the University of Namibia in recognition of his outstanding leadership in the field of foreign policy and diplomacy as well as the Order of the Sun First Class Medal which was awarded to him by Dr Sam Nujoma, the founding president, during the commemoration of Heroes’ Day held at Omugulugwombashe.Gurirab is currently the Speaker of the 72-member National Assembly.