On 21st March 2005, Hifikepunye Pohamba was inaugurated as the second president of Namibia, when Sam Nujoma vacated office at the end of his third five-year term.
Hifikepunye Pohamba was born on 18th August 1935 at Okanghudi in the Ohangwena Region of Namibia, in what was then known as Owamboland. He was educated at the Holy Cross Mission in Onamunama (1947 - 54) and then, while in exile, took a Social and Political Studies course in the USSR. This is a typical profile for people of Pohamba's background and record: Firstly, growing up in a time and era when, under colonialism and apartheid, black people could only get elementary-level education and that with great difficulty, and secondly, devoting most of his adult life to working for the independence of Namibia, during what is known as ‘the struggle'.
Pohamba is one of the ‘old guard' of the liberation struggle and of SWAPO (the South West African People's Organisation), having left Namibia to go into exile as early as 1961 after he was beaten by tribal authorities, who accused him of engaging in subversive activities. In 1962 he returned to Namibia to become a SWAPO organiser, but left the country again after he was placed in internal exile under house arrest in Owamboland. In 1966 he and Nujoma returned to Namibia to challenge the colonial authorities' claim that they and others were ‘self-exiled'. In fact, they were deported from the country within a day of their arrival. Throughout the exile period, Pohamba was known as one of Nujoma's most trusted colleagues and confidantes.
Between 1964 and 1978, Pohamba represented SWAPO in East Africa, North Africa, and Zambia, and then served as the SWAPO Secretary of Finance between 1977 and 1989. In that year, along with about 40 000 exiles, he returned to Namibia to fight the election campaign for a Constituent Assembly, the prelude to an independent Namibia. During this period, he served as Head of Administration for the SWAPO election campaign.
After independence, Pohamba held four cabinet positions:
- Minister of Home Affairs (1990 - 1995);
- Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources (1995 - 1998);
- Minister Without Portfolio (1998 - 2001);
- Minister of Lands, Resettlement, and Rehabilitation (2001 - 2005).
After he was inaugurated as president, some of Pohamba's most notable early pronouncements expressed his determination to fight corruption in national life, which had escalated under Nujoma. He also took concrete steps to advance ‘national reconciliation', which refers to harmonising relations amongst ethnic and racial groups.