The Nordic Africa Institute

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo

SWAPO—Secretary General Minister of Mines and Energy

The interview was held by Tor Sellström in Windhoek, 17 March 1995.

Tor Sellström: During your time on Robben Island, did you hear about the Nordic countries supporting the liberation struggle of ANC and SWAPO?

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: I heard that the Nordic countries were a special group and that they were supporting the liberation movements. In fact, perhaps all the liberation movements that were struggling for freedom and independence had support from the Nordic countries. As well as from the socialist countries, headed by the Soviet Union. I was also amazed to hear that the Kingdom of the Netherlands had assisted the liberation movements. There was even a case when the Queen assisted FRELIMO. There was a row in the Dutch parliament, but the Queen said that she gave of her personal money.

When I came to Angola, I met some friends and had the opportunity to go to Norway and Finland. I skipped Sweden. I think that somebody I wanted to meet was not in town. I went to Sweden in 1985. My immediate contact was Anne-Marie Sundbom. Many Namibians have been in her care. I was told that she was the one who introduced SWAPO to the Swedish government at the time when she was working with the youth movement. She met Peter Mueshihange at a conference and invited him to Sweden. That is how the relationship between Sweden and SWAPO came about in the early 1960s.

Tor Sellström: So, in general terms, you found the Nordic assistance to SWAPO established when you were released from prison in 1984?

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: I found a lot of Volvos flooding SWAPO and our camps. All from Sweden. Volvos and Scanias. I fell in love with the Volvos. I am still driving a Volvo now.

Tor Sellström: Do you think that the support had political conditions attached or was it given on purely humanitarian grounds?

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: I am sure that it was given on humanitarian grounds, without strings attached.

Tor Sellström: Sweden was barred from participation in UNTAG, because the South Africans said that Sweden was not neutral, but partial to SWAPO. How did you look upon that?

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: It was against us, but what could we do? The South Africans wanted it like that, just as they wanted the Cubans out of Angola. The Cuban government said: ‘All right, we are prepared to go out provided that Namibia gets independence’. The South Africans had no alternative but to agree to that. More so when they were beaten at Cuito Cuanavale. In the case of barring Sweden from participating in the UN forces, we said, well, there is nothing we can do. If we attain our independence, our friendship with Sweden will continue. That is also what has happened.

Sweden supported our liberation struggle. As far as the question of transport is concerned, we never suffered. Most of our vehicles came from Sweden and we very much appreciate the fact that the Swedish government and people stood by us through thick and thin. Now we are independent and I am happy to say that our relationship continues. Whenever the Swedish people come here they must feel at home. This is their home, and I think that we are trying to do our little bit to pay back what they have done for us. We cannot do much, but the little we can, we shall willingly do.