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Heroes' Acre

Driving a few kilometres south on the B1 from Windhoek towards Rehoboth, one comes across one of the most controversial modern buildings of Namibia. Heroes' Acre, is a monstrous monument at the foot of the Auas Mountains, built by workers from communist North Korea and inaugurated in 2002 by former state president Sam Nujoma in a solemn celebration. At the centre of the complex stands a 15 metre high marble obelisk carrying the 8 metre high bronze statue of a heavily armed soldier representing the "Unknown Soldier", but strongly resembling Sam Nujoma himself. The actual centrepiece, though, are the tombs for 174 Namibian heroes, whose names and pictures are engraved in black marble. Some tombs are still vacant providing space for future heroes.

The memorial is laid out as a symmetrical polygon comprising extensive parade grounds and grandstands for an audience of 5000 people. At the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the obelisk, an "eternal flame" is burning.

As Sam Nujoma said in his inaugural speech, Heroes' Acre is supposed to foster a spirit of patriotism and nationalism and to remind the future Namibian generations of all ethnic backgrounds of the men and women who lost their lives in the liberation struggle.

Many Namibians - not only from the white part of the population - find the pompous memorial quite naive, misplaced and ludicrous. One can't help but gain the impression that the ruling SWAPO party here has erected a monument for itself. Many visitors of the memorial feel rather awkward.

Nevertheless, the war memorial is worth a visit - perhaps even due to its grandiose absurdity, because it reveals a lack of African self-confidence after more than a century of humiliation through colonialism.