U.S. first lady Jill Biden praised Namibia’s vibrant democracy Thursday at a pomp-filled, wine-laden, dignitary-heavy state luncheon with Namibia’s first lady Monica Geingos and her husband, President Hage Geingob.
“I’m proud to be standing here standing with a strong democracy,” Biden said. “And as Monica said yesterday, a young democracy working together. As Joe said at the summit, African voices, African Leadership, and African innovation are all critical to addressing the most pressing global challenges and realizing the vision we all share is a world that is free.”
Thursday also is the 30th anniversary of the first sitting of Namibia’s first post-independence upper house of parliament.
Geingos, a Namibian entrepreneur and lawyer who is the president’s third wife, said she invited Biden to visit after meeting at December’s U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.
“Of course, there will always be differences,” she said. “But what is important is what the Biden presidency represents. And that is decency, democracy, and diplomacy. This luncheon is to celebrate connection, and possibility.”
Biden will also visit a U.S.-funded project near the capital, Windhoek, that focuses on empowering women and children and ensuring access to economic opportunities and health resources. And on Friday, she will speak to university students about youth empowerment.
One such youth, the junior mayor of Windhoek, Moses Fillpus, thanked Biden for visiting and praised American ideals.
“Congratulate me for not fainting,” quipped the 17-year-old in front of the room of some 200 people from the highest echelons of Namibian society, politics and diplomacy.
“For me, as a young African child growing up, I just consumed American media to the point where I even knew about it more than my own,” he continued. “And I think that I speak for most of the youth that now it is the goal of the modern youth to achieve the American dream that we see on TV so much.”
After arriving in the country on Wednesday, Biden said Namibia was chosen because of its positive energy and vitality.
“We wanted to come because you know this is a young democracy, and we want to support democracies around the world,” Biden said. “We met each other in December, and we’re just continuing the relationship. Monica and I think it’s safe to say that we became good friends instantly.”
Geingos said there was a lot in Namibia she would like to show Biden, who is making the first visit to the country by an incumbent first lady.
“It is a very vibrant democracy. We’ve got a very large youth population, who drives that democracy, very energetic and fully enabled by our constitutional values but also by the personal values of our leadership,” Geingos said.
Jill Biden is the first White House official to visit the country after President Joe Biden last year pledged to send administration officials to the continent. She follows Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who visited earlier this year.
Like Biden, Thomas-Greenfield focused part of her visit around a food security crisis in East Africa — something Biden plans to highlight when she visits Kenya later this week. But these high-profile visits are also happening against the background of increased visits by top-level Russian and Chinese officials to the continent.
While the nation is a multiparty democracy, the same party — Geingob’s South West Africa People’s Organization — has led since the nation won independence more than three decades ago. And that liberation struggle pulled in other countries for support. Earlier Wednesday, Biden laid a wreath at Heroes’ Acre, a memorial to those who fought for the nation’s independence.
That memorial, with its brutalist sculpture and wide expanses of stone, bears an uncanny similarity to the Heroes’ Acre in Zimbabwe’s capital, maybe because both memorials were built by the same North Korean company. That same firm built the imposing, modernist gray cement State House where Biden was received by the first couple.
Jill Biden heads Friday to Kenya, where she will use her popularity and platform to draw attention to women’s empowerment, children’s issues and the hunger crisis that is again ravaging the Horn of Africa.
Source: Voice of America