Dr Abisai Shejvali
Council of Churches
Shejavali started to be active in the liberation struggle in Namibia when he finished his teaching studies in 1967 at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and became a lecturer at the theological seminary, Paulineum at Otjimbingwe, Namibia. He did his doctoral studies in the United States at St Thomas Aquinos Institute of Philosophy and Theology and wrote a lot on the liberation theology. His doctoral thesis was on the activities of God and the liberation.
He went back to the Paulineum Theological Seminary after graduation as a Principal in 1979 and stayed there for 3 years. General Secretary of Council of Churches in Namibia 1983-1992. CCN was at the time an important actor in the internal resistance and a major receiver of international development funds. They also coordinated the repatriation of the refugees from 89-92. After that, he assisted with the establishment of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola and became very involved with the Lutheran World Federation. Shejavali also worked with reconciling the detainees (Namibians accused of collaborating with the enemy by Swapo and imprisoned before independence) with the Swapo leadership, after independence. He is now retired.
Bertil Högberg: Okay, we’re sitting here in Windhoek on 14 June 2005 and in front of me is Dr Shejavali who once headed the Council of Churches in Namibia. What are you doing at the moment?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: At the moment I am in retirement.
Bertil Högberg: You are enjoying retirement.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Not enjoying, but although I have retired really, I’m now more than 70 years old, but I still do some activities for the church. I have been serving the people who are living in informal settlements, marginalised people somewhere in the informal settlements, up there in Babylon area, Okahandja Park, Kilimanjro Park and Mgulumbashe Park and so on. I lead the church services there every Sunday, starting from the morning at 9 o’clock.
Bertil Högberg: Do you have a church there?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: We’re operating from the community centre building. It’s just a hall where we have asked the municipality to assist us so that we can operate from there and we pay monthly about N$200. I am not only conducting services but I have also confirmation classes, counselling activities and also our informal congregation, we call it ELCIN, Babylon Congregation. We are very active, we have some programmes like children feeding schemes and we distribute food on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There are children coming, all the children. We do not make any separation of the kids, whether they are Lutherans or Anglicans, Catholics or non-Christians they are all welcome to receive food. So we have 5 people who cook the food and then, starting from 2 o’clock in the afternoon, they come to receive it.
My wife has trained some people in HIV/AIDS awareness and also home based care. These people go to visit the houses of the sick people and give knowledge to those who are helping the sick people on what they can do and how to deal with their sick people. So in one word we are really active in many ways.
Bertil Högberg: So if we then go back to the old times how and when did you become involved in the struggle for liberation in Namibia?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Well it was long ago [laughs].
Bertil Högberg: I can imagine.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I think it was already while I was in the boy’s school the people started to fight for the freedom of the country. At that time I was in a boy’s school at Ongwediwa. And then also when I was at the teachers’ training college. There were people in the northern regions that were talking about the evils of the apartheid regime of South Africa. So I think it started already up there and when I became a teacher I was aware about the injustices taking place in our country. Then when I became a lecturer at our theological seminary, Paulineum at Otjimbingwe, we started to be more active.
Bertil Högberg: What were you teaching there?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: First I started to be a teacher there in 1967 when I came from my studies from the University of Helsinki in Finland.
Bertil Högberg: How many years did you stay there?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I was there for 4 years.
Bertil Högberg: So you speak fluent Finnish?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Oh, I was doing that but now I have forgotten a lot. And then mostly when I came back again from the United States, because I did my doctoral studies in the United States at St Thomas Aquinas Institute of Philosophy and Theology . There I did a lot about the liberation theology. My doctoral thesis was on the activities of God and the liberation. And when I came back from there I went again to the Paulineum Theological Seminary.
Bertil Högberg: And that was when?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: At that time it was 1979.
Bertil Högberg: Was Kameeta still there?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I was the Principal of the seminary.
Bertil Högberg: After Kameeta? DR SJEAWALI: After Kameeta came Pastor Noabeb, then I came and of course you remember that Bishop Kameeta was my student at the time before I went to the United States.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I started as Principal in 1979 and I stayed there for 3 years and became more active for the liberation of the country. I conscientised the minds of the students and I remember also by that time we had already the Kassinga issue, we received some pictures of those who were killed, so many hundred of them.On Kassinga Day we organised meetings and we had services in the chapel. I showed the pictures, which were taken from Kassinga, and the people were very, very angry when they saw all those pictures and some women were crying when they saw them.
Then I think some student went to inform the South African Police. I do not exactly know whether it was a student or someone around that did it. Some of the detective police came to visit me at Paulineum in Otjimbingwe and they asked me “Dr Sjeawali, are you fighting against the government up here?”. I said “How do I fight against the government when I do not have weapons?”. I think they visited me twice, these Secret Police, asking me about this.
Okay, then in 1983 I was elected as General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Namibia so I moved from there to Windhoek. My worktowards the independence and freedom of the country was now intensified by me working with the Council of Churches in Namibia.
Bertil Högberg: Because CCN was quite important during those years.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes.
Bertil Högberg: The Council of Churches, when was that established as a council?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: The Council of Churches was established in 1978, I think it was in October.
Bertil Högberg: So you were the Secretary General from 1983 up to 1992?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: 1992 okay.
Bertil Högberg: 9 years.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: But in 1992 I was also on sabbatical leave, I went to Angola and after that I went to Britain.
Bertil Högberg: In Angola to do what?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I went there just to assist a newly established Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola, which I could say is a child of ELCIN, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia ELCIN, which was the one really engaged and that was involved in the mission work up there but supported by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission and some missionaries from Finland were there. But we had pastors there, we had our members up there and so on, working until the church came to be established.
Bertil Högberg: It’s the same people that were living on the other side of the border?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, the same people living up there. I was also born in Angola.
Bertil Högberg: Oh, you were?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes.
Bertil Högberg: Which were the member churches of CCN in those years?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: If I remember well I think we had Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia, Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia, we had Anglican Church and we had African Methodist Episcopal Church, we had the Methodist Church and I think United Congregational Church was also involved. During my first years with the CCN Roman Catholic Church was observer but then became a full member.
Bertil Högberg: They became full members, it’s quite unusual that they do that.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Definitely, but they were very active and during my work as General Secretary they made a contribution to the struggle and they in fact worked very well, closely with the other churches. And as you remember also the late Archbishop Hausiko was once elected as the President of the CCN. Anglican bishop James Kaluma stayed as the President for many years and then he was followed by Bishop Hendrick Fredericks and then after that I think others came.
Bertil Högberg: How would you describe the role of CCN during the ‘80s?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Well I could say that the CCN played a very important role during that time. One cannot finish listing all those things we did but I would say especially that we brought the church leaders together so that they could come to the common work and face the common enemy.
Bertil Högberg: Which was?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: The South African regime.
Bertil Högberg: Okay.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: They could come to discuss the issues, they sometimes turned up together to meet the representatives of the South African regime, and to talk to them and they talked with one voice. Sometimes when you see them going to meet those representatives you want to say these are coming from one church. Of course they are coming from the church of Jesus Christ but when they leave their meetings each one goes to his own respective office and so on.
We also worked together to bring the people together, the masses together, and to make them realise also that we were in the right direction of fighting against apartheid, against all the evils of apartheid. We had ecumenical services where the people came from different churches and where we also made our position clear that we did not accept these social and political injustices from South Africa. So we were together in bringing the injustices practised by South Africa through the police and military forces to the courts. I’m still really thankful to our partners overseas that they assisted us. We took the cases to the court. We gave it to the lawyers and the lawyers took the cases to court. We had people disappearing, people arrested and kept in detention without being brought to the courts, people who were beaten up seriously, some were killed, some I would say were just shot, some with broken arms or broken legs and so on and the omahango fields were destroyed by the military kaspirs and all those things we brought for the people to the government. Some we brought to the representatives of South Africa and some we took to the court. Of course it helped, some people were arrested and some people who disappeared were not found and the South African regime came up with many ways to protect themselves for whatever. This is another thing.
We also tried to bring the education to the people, a better education. As you know we were under the Bantu education and so some of the communities came to CCN saying that they wanted to put up their own school, which would not follow the apartheid educational system. As you may remember we had a school in Gibeon and Vaalgras and Berseba and at Hoachanas], Also the churches themselves, like the main church ELCIN had its own school in Oshigambo, ELCRN had its school in Okombahe and the Catholics had their schools, Döbra, and other schools in the country. So in that case we really worked against the wishes of the apartheid regime and I think the financial support we received from our partners abroad was very helpful and gave us also hope that we could make it.
Bertil Högberg: Which were these partners?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: We had partners from Germany, I think I remember Bread for the World were open to help when we put up Berseba. We had partners from Norway, we had partners from Sweden, all those were helpful.
Bertil Högberg: And from Sweden it was Church of Sweden Aid or -?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, I think, we have to go into the papers to be sure.
Bertil Högberg: The Ecumenical Council in Sweden I think they were involved somewhere.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: They supported us somewhere but probably not with the community schools. But mostly I could say the Norwegian Church Aid
Bertil Högberg: And Dan Church Aid were also involved in the community schools.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Ja, also. Norway and Denmark, Germany, are those which helped us a lot with schools. But I think I could say Norway was much involved in supporting us.
That was also during the time when we had a drought. We received support from our donor agencies and we were able to buy food and distribute it to the people in the areas much affected by the drought. We did so, I think during my time we tried to organise the people in various areas or regions to put up ecumenical regional committees and local committees. The people did this and these committees were very, very helpful in giving us information about what was happening in their areas locally or regionally. They were very helpful when we got some food or money to send to them and then to either buy food or to receive the food and to distribute to the people who were in serious need. That was very, very helpful and those ecumenical regional committees and local committees were also helpful in organising meetings and services, which could bring the people together.
We were also able to help, to give scholarships to the students who wanted to go to further their studies abroad. We sent them to universities in South Africa or some were able to go to Britain and some went to United States. I think there was a kind of agreement between the churches here and the Lutheran Church in America and EZE in Germany. We here sent a student to the United States and after the Lutheran Churches were able to put the students in their colleges and universities, EZE sent money to help those. And others went to Britain I think through Christian Aid. I think that was very helpful. We also got some money from other donor agencies and we were able to send students also to South Africa.
Bertil Högberg: What subjects did you send them to study? Was it only church related things?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: No, not at all, I could say none went to study theology through that scholarship.
The church was involved because the church was part and parcel of the needs of the people. They went to study other fields and we encouraged the young people to study science and mathematics because here, with the apartheid system, they didn’t want our people to study science, mathematics and so on. Young people were even discouraged from dealing with mathematics and science and so on. And also the apartheid regime was afraid about helping people to get a lot of knowledge on these scientific issues. Some probably might be able to mix some bombs like petrol bombs. And you know the situation with the Bantu education; the Bantu education was really preventing the black people from getting more knowledge in many areas.
We were also able to send some young people to Zimbabwe, first to study and to do A levels and then if they could succeed they could be accepted at the University of Zimbabwe. We sent some. I think I remember one of them being able to finish A level and being accepted to study law. Of course he’s now also a very important person using what he gained from there. Some of those who went to Zimbabwe when they finished they went to Britain, some went to United States and so on and of course they came back.
And not only that, we also assisted the parents who were unable to pay the primary and secondary school fees here. We assisted them so that it enabled them to send their children to study in a primary school or a secondary school. In fact we also helped to establish a community school, the People’s Primary School. We gave more moral support and also when independence was closer we also supported it so that the school could get financial support. At that time the Principal was my wife, Mrs Selma Sjeawali and I remember the Council of Churches of Australia were involved in that.
We did many things and we were also much involved in the development. We were also able to have some water programmes in the north where the people had difficulty to get fresh water.We had people go there and make wells and put in pumps. So there were many, many things.
I remember also we were able to help some poor families in theOtjimbingwe area. We gave goats to a family, distributed the goats to the family and the family were able to see how they could bring up these goats.There was the idea that if someone got more than 10 goats then he should be able to give one to another family and the other family continues and so on.
Bertil Högberg: And you got support to all these programmes – were all the Scandinavian and Nordic countries involved in supporting this?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: All our financial – the agencies which supported us one could say were all over the world, from Europe if I remember. Many of our project proposals were sent first to the Lutheran World Federation and the Lutheran World Federation sent them to the donor agencies and the money was coming to us through Lutheran World Federation.
And then we moved to World Council of Churches. We submitted our projects to their African Desk and then the African Desk within World Council of Churches sent our programme to various donor agencies. I could say some of those donor agencies I remember, I know definitely Miserior, this is a German Catholic one, was involved. The Bread for the World was involved, EZE was involved so much, I think EZE helped more in education. We had in Denmark I think the Dan Church Aid and then Norwegian Church Aid, Sweden also helped and especially when we started as I said this Alexander came, I think he was coming from Zimbabwe, he passed through here and so on, in some cases they assisted us. I remember the Diakonia was also very helpful and this Diakonia I think its Catholic, hey?
Bertil Högberg: No, it’s what we call in Sweden the Free Churches, non-Lutheran churches but not the Catholics. The Catholics have their own aid agencies like Caritas in Sweden.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Ja, I think in Netherlands we had those churches, donor agencies which were helping us, three of them I think and even later some of the Catholics. In Britain we had Christian Aid and others were involved. In United States we had a desk, I think it was the African Desk, within the Council of Churches of Christ, they were also much involvedSo, brother, we had many people here wanting to assist and I think I remember also the Australian government wanted to assist us during the struggle but I refused. I was saying if they want to assist us then they have to channel their money through the Council of Churches of Australia, we do not want to work directly with the government. We wanted more the government to put pressure on the South African regime so that we could be free. So there were many, many people who wanted to assist us.
Bertil Högberg: Did you also have personal contacts, people coming and going between the Nordic countries and the CCN? Did you have exchanges?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, I remember I visited Denmark and went to visit the people at the Council of Churches of Denmark. I met also the people who were responsible for our programme here in Namibia and there came also people from Norway, Denmark, Finland and so on. Of course the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission was having direct contact with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia. But as you know when I was General Secretary in order to give more firsthand information to our partners in various countries we sent some delegations.
I remember we sent a delegation to Sweden and I remember one person in the delegation was Mr Ambrosios Agapitus. We sent them there so that they could give firsthand information on what was going on here. And that helped a lot to disseminate the information to other brothers and sisters around the world. So we sent also some to Britain and we sent also others to other countries. So there was interaction.
Bertil Högberg: Your contacts were mainly with the donor agencies. Did you also get in contact with the grass root solidarity work that was done in the Nordic countries ?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, in fact we were visited by many people, I mean both from the churches and also from those who were grass roots organisations, solidarity organisations, and we were in touch with them. I remember also when I was in Netherlands and Brussels, I think in Netherlands, they had some solidarity organisation.
We were really in direct contact, especially when I went to visit them or they received information from us and they came to visit us here. In Brussels there was also one group and also in Germany. I remember I went to visit EKD and I attended meetings which were held in Travemünde. During that time I also met some people from the grass root solidarity groups. So I would say those grass root solidarity groups were a very important force which one could reckon with because either they were supporting those churches who were there or they were putting pressure on the governments and the governments on the apartheid regime in this case.
Bertil Högberg: But the type of support that you got was exclusively money or was there any material support sent in here to CCN, like any goods or anything?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I think much was financial support, goods may have come later as far as I remember. But I could say we received much moral support via many people who came personally to visit us from the Scandinavian countries. . I think that was a great support and we were not only telling the people here that we had friends up there but we could say “Here are the friends who came to see us” and so on. Some churches even sent their bishops to come here, many came either from Britain or from United States.
Bertil Högberg: So how would you characterise the relationships that you had during those years with your northern partners?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Let me say that I think the Dan Church Aid and Norway were more heavily involved in a direct way with Council of Churches and we really appreciated that support which we really needed at that time. But we also should not forget that also people in Sweden were very, very helpful. I remember when I visited SWAPO in Angola so I met some medical doctors there from Sweden. I think that touched my heart.
Bertil Högberg: They were sent by the Africa Groups of Sweden.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: To see people from Sweden suffering together with the Namibians in the struggle in Angola where there was war and malaria but they were there. I met them there and it touched my heart really.
Bertil Högberg: When were you in Angola?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I visited Angola three times during that period. First it was 1983, just the time when I became the General Secretary and that was the first time when I met these people from Sweden. The Church Councils in Southern Africa had a meeting in Lobito. It was a tough time. I flew to Zimbabwe, to Lusaka and then from there to Luanda and then we stayed a few days in Luanda and then we flew up higher to Benguela. When you go up they go straight up and then come straight down again like that, avoiding some shooting, then from there we were taken by bus to Lobito.
So when we came from the meeting in Luanda SWAPO Central Committee requested me to go and visit the Namibians in exile and that’s what I wished also so I liked it very, very much. I was able then to be taken to Lower Kwanza and Kwanza Sul and from there we travelled somewhere up to Ndalantandu and we saw all those places. During those times is when I met Swedish people. In Ndalantandu I think it was Swedish – no, it was Norwiegian people who helped up there, I don’t know whether you have any idea.
The first time when I visited the people there, children were living in the hostel, the Natalia Vula Centre they were staying in tents. The second time when I visited in 1985 I found that they were staying in homes made with wood and that came …[interruption]
Bertil Högberg: From us.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: …from you?
Bertil Högberg: Yes, many of them.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes.
Bertil Högberg: They were pre-fabricated houses.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Thanks be to God. And it was so lovely a village, I said “This is now a beautiful village, the first time they were staying in tents, the second there was a kind of a village”. Beautiful.
Bertil Högberg: They were packed with clothes and hospital material and everything when they were sent down and then they were erected as houses when they arrived, but they were containers the size of a normal shipping container, so we used them for transport.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: That was a great gospel]. During the visit in 1985 I think that I also met President Sam Njoma in Luanda. We were led in a convoy by the SWAPO liberation army members to Ndalatando to Ndanatando and also on the way back.
On the third trip when I went there I think I stopped only in Luanda. That’s the time when I went to talk to the leaders of SWAPO because they were a little bit hesitant to come. It was now the time when the repatriation was about to start so I went there to talk to them and tell them that there was really no need to be afraid.
Bertil Högberg: Yes, you talk about that repatriation, that became quite an involvement by CCN, that whole process. You took charge of the whole programme more or less?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, the CCN was approached by the people from the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees. During the preparations they came first to me at CCN, and informed me that United Nations wanted to work together with the CCN. So I arranged all these things and then we had a meeting again with the church leaders and some people from United Nations. From there we started to engage in work. We had to make some kind of preparations together with feasibility studies.
So the church also said clearly to the UN that they would be happy to work together with the United Nations to receive our people and that’s why we put up the reception centres. These reception centres were close to the churches. We put one here at Döbra, Döbra belongs to the Roman Catholics. We put a small one between Okahandja and Windhoek, it was a Methodist one. We had one at Ongwediwa at a place of ELCIN and another one at Engela, also ELCIN, and we had one also at Marienbrun of the Roman Catholic places. There all things were put in place, arrangements, the churches were now heavily involved in receiving their children, their members, and we worked so closely together as a united body. And then the repatriation started together with the United Nations.
Bertil Högberg: Was the United Nations funding the whole operation or did you also have to look for funding yourselves?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Much came from the United Nations, but we had also to deal with our donor agencies to get support. We got very, very much I think. . We also had some people coming to assist. They were even there for the elections, our first elections. We worked also closely through World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation and so on. I think at that time we needed the people to be in person in Namibia to assist us.
Bertil Högberg: After independence came some problems with the donor agencies, suddenly there wasn’t so much money available any longer, but did you have any problem in the relationship in the ‘80s?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes In the ‘80s we could say, thanks to God, that our donor agencies were open and ready to assist up to independence. But when the independence was coming we had to face some problems that the money was not available any more. I think we understood that, that during the struggle our donor agencies were receiving the money from their governments and when the country was becoming independent the governments who were supporting us through those non-governmental organisations they now wanted to direct their support to the new government. That created some problems. We employed many people during the struggle so that we could be able to work effectivelyfor the people who were suffering. Now when we became independent we were no longer able to pay these people so we had to retrench them and some were having difficulty to get employment. So we really had a problem.
And also it weakened the possibility of CCN to participate effectively in nation building as they were not able to get money and to be involved as they were during pre-independence. During pre-independence CCN was even functioning like a government because there was no one else able to take care of that.
Bertil Högberg: What was your relationship with SWAPO in those years at CCN?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Well the people who were the members of SWAPO were also the members of our churches so the churches were the mother. We had a very good cooperation with the leaders of SWAPO, inside and outside. When the church leaders travelled abroad they were able to meet SWAPO leaders. I remember also when we had a conference on Namibia that was held in Belgium, Brussels, the church leaders were able to meet even the President of SWAPO, Sam Njoma, and other leaders. When I travelled either in Angola or somewhere else we had meetings. We consulted each other, we gave them information about what was taking place inside and also they told us what was going on with them. So on some issues when we heard that there were some injustices taking place within their leadership, I think the church was able to point to those issues to tell them about that.
Inside we could say most of the SWAPO leaders were not wanted by the system and some lost their employment but when we had employment within the system we were able to employ them when possible. But this does not mean that we had to do what SWAPO wanted but we saw this as a church. We had to be obedient to Jesus Christ, to the apostle Paul, and that is why the church was involved in fighting injustices of the country and sided with the oppressed people. That was very, very clear.
Bertil Högberg: Did you have any conflicts with SWAPO in those years?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: As far as I remember I don’t think that we had.
Bertil Högberg: The detainees, wasn’t that an issue that was problematic?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, it was problematicbut as you know when we heard about detainees first I was trying to arrange some meetings with the leaders of SWAPO. The meeting did not materialise fully abroad, but I myself met President Sam Nujoma as the President of SWAPO in Luanda and I asked about these people who we heard were detained. He confirmed that yes there were some people who were detained because they were cooperating with the enemy, they were agents of enemy, that was why they were detained. And I asked when they thought they were going to release them. He said they would keep them until the country was independent. When the country was independent then they would bring these people to the public to tell why they allowed themselves to cooperate with or to be agents of the South African apartheid regime.
When the country became independent I was still the General Secretary. Some of the detainee people came to meet me and even to show to me how they were treated. Oh, terrible, some were beaten up and so on, you saw the scars and so on. And also I arranged that some of these detainees could meet the church leaders and that is what they did. And then after that we arranged that they could meet the leaders of SWAPO together with the church leaders. We had a meeting and the church asked what really happened when they were in exile. They told us clearly what happened, it was a difficult situation, they didn’t know who really was an agent, but that is why they had to arrest the people and so on.
Okay, after that I arranged that the church leaders together with the SWAPO leaders and those who were the leaders of the detainees, could meet and that happened, they met. Well I could say it was a nice meeting but of course they had to face each other, appeasing each other and so on, but the church leaders were listening and trying to say what they wanted to say.
So after this meeting we thought that they could come back again and we could meet them together to see how we could reconcile them but unfortunately we were not able to have such a meeting. Why? I think at that time I had to leave for sabbatical leave and also the SWAPO leadership were too involved in the formation of the new government. This means that there was probably not enough time then to bring all these people together. I understand that brother Nakamela that took over from me, was trying to see whether they could do something but without success.
Bertil Högberg: Do you have anything more on relations to the Nordic countries that you would like to say at the end that we haven’t touched on? Is Finland for example still important for you?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, Finland is still important because they still continue to work with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia.
Bertil Högberg: Do you have personal relations there that you still maintain?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, I have many friends in Finland and some of them when they come now to visit here we can make contact.The church leaders of ELCIN always go to visit Finland to meet the people within the FELM (Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission) or to meet the people of the church leadership. Even the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland visited here. I think this cooperation and the friendship is still continuing, supporting each other especially financially. Although we know also that the financial support is becoming smaller and smaller, but I think the issue is more that the church leaders are working directly with the church leaders and also dioceses are having some twinning relationships..
I know that also goes with Sida. I think Sida helped in many ways during the independence. I hope that they were also helping us through Three R (repatriation, reconstruction and reahabilitation)do you know?
Bertil Högberg: Yes they did.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: You see at that time, as you remember,I had many, many things to run. I had Immanuel who was the director for Three R we had also another group which was for information and so on, but I think Sida was very helpful in that. I mentioned Diakonia of Sweden and I remember when the repatriation started we had problems of accommodation. I contacted them, I think Margaret was responsible for that, I contacted Margaret Beckman to assist us with that and they did. Diakonia sent us money. Really we appreciated it, we were able to buy those buildings. That building still belongs to the CCN and the people who are staying there are renting it.
Bertil Högberg: Where is that?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: It is somewhere near Khomassdal. Another thing, which I remember, is that we had to put up education both for those who came from exile or those who were staying. We had to get the money I think from Sweden to assist and to divide some buildings we had so that we could have classes. I think as we go on I think the memory will become clearer.
Bertil Högberg: Okay, I think we have covered quite a lot about what CCN was doing and your role in it and in keeping everything together, it became quite big at the end?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Ja, it was.
Bertil Högberg: How many employees did you have at the end at CCN?
Dr Abisai Shejavali: I cannot say now.
Bertil Högberg: I heard some story that just Three R that would deal with the repatriation had more than 100 people employed.
Dr Abisai Shejavali: Yes, they had more than 100, yes, as you remember if you also attended that meeting which was in Swokopmund. I think we had more, because you see we had some at the head office but many in the field. They were field workers or they were in the regions where they were operating and so on, which meant that CCN had to be extended.
Bertil Högberg: Okay, I thank you very much for the time you spent with me.