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Theo-Ben Gurirab

Theo-Ben Gurirab
Theo-Ben Gurirab (cropped) 02.jpg
Speaker of the National Assembly
In office
20 March 2005 – 20 March 2015
PresidentHifikepunye Pohamba
Preceded byMose Penaani Tjitendero
Succeeded byPeter Katjavivi
2nd Prime Minister of Namibia
In office
28 August 2002 – 20 March 2005
PresidentSam Nujoma
Preceded byHage Geingob
Succeeded byNahas Angula
President of the United Nations General Assembly
In office
Preceded byDidier Opertti
Succeeded byHarri Holkeri
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
21 March 1990 – 26 August 2002
PresidentSam Nujoma
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byHidipo Hamutenya
Personal details
Born(1938-01-23)23 January 1938
Usakos, South West Africa
Died14 July 2018(2018-07-14) (aged 80)
Windhoek, Namibia
Political partySWAPO
Spouse(s)Joan Gurirab

Theo-Ben Gurirab (23 January 1938 – 14 July 2018) was a Namibian politician who served in various senior government positions.[1] He served as the second Prime Minister of Namibia from 28 August 2002 to 20 March 2005, following the demotion and subsequent resignation of Hage Geingob. Previously he was the country's first Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1990 to 2002, and was President of the United Nations General Assembly from 1999 to 2000. He was Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia from 2005 to 2015 when he was replaced by Peter Katjavivi. Gurirab ultimately resigned from politics in 2015.

Early life and education

Gurirab was born on 23 January 1938[2] in Usakos in the Erongo Region. In 1960 he obtained a teaching diploma from the Augustineum Training College in Okahandja, and in 1964 while in exile in the United States he graduated with a degree in political science from Temple University in Pennsylvania.[3]

Political career

Gurirab was in exile from 1962 to 1989. He fled first to Tanganyika, where he won a United Nations study fellowship and relocated to the United States.[4] He was Associate Representative of the SWAPO Mission to United Nations and United States from 1964 to 1972, then Head of the SWAPO Mission to the United Nations from 1972 to 1986. Subsequently he was SWAPO's Secretary for Foreign Affairs from 1986 to 1990.[5]

He was a SWAPO member of the Constituent Assembly which was in place from November 1989 to March 1990, immediately prior to independence,[6] and the "key drafter"[3] of Namibia's Constitution. From 1990 to 2015 he was a member of the National Assembly,[5] and he also served on the Central Committee and Politburo of SWAPO.[3] He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from independence in 1990 until he was appointed as Prime Minister by President Sam Nujoma on 27 August 2002, replacing Hage Geingob.[7]

While serving as Foreign Minister, he was elected as the President of the United Nations General Assembly on 14 September 1999, serving in that position until September 2000.[8] Among Gurirab's achievements at the UN was chairing the negotiations that brought about the reintegration of Walvis Bay into Namibian territory, in fulfilment of Security Council resolution 432.[4]

Following the 2004 election, Gurirab was elected as Speaker of the National Assembly at the beginning of the new parliamentary term on 20 March 2005.[5][9]

He received the sixth highest number of votes—377—in the election to the Central Committee of SWAPO at the party's August 2002 congress.[10] He was again one of the highest scoring candidates in the election to the Central Committee at SWAPO's November 2007 congress.[11]

From 2008 to 2011,[12] Gurirab was the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international organisation of parliaments of sovereign states.[13]

Gurirab was re-elected to the National Assembly in the November 2009 parliamentary election, in which SWAPO retained a large majority of seats. When the MPs took their seats for the new parliamentary term on 19 March 2010, they unanimously re-elected Gurirab to his post as Speaker of the National Assembly. Speaking on that occasion, Guiriab stressed the importance of the Constitution: "As one of its authors, and among the longest serving public officials, and founders of our Republic, I know of the highest vision the Constitution provides for Namibia, as well as the promise of national unity, reconciliation, democracy, the rule of law, human dignity, socio-economic emancipation and the commitment to protect the gains of our long and bitter struggle for liberation and independence."[14]

In late August 2014, when SWAPO chose its list of parliamentary candidates for the November 2014 general election, Gurirab was not on the list.[15] When the National Assembly began meeting for its new term on 20 March 2015, Gurirab was succeeded as Speaker by Peter Katjavivi.[16][17]


Gurirab died at a Windhoek hospital on 14 July 2018 of natural causes.[18] He is buried at Heroes' Acre.



  1. ^ Krasno, Jean E. "Interview with: Theo-Ben Gurirab". United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  2. ^ September, Andre (23 January 2018). "Theo-Ben Gurirab at 80 – a personal reflection". The Namibian.
  3. ^ a b c d e Liswaniso, Mwaka (18 July 2014). "Theo-Ben Gurirab (1938 ...) An educator, politician and diplomat". New Era. p. 6.
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia)". United Nations. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Profile at Namibian Parliament website.[dead link]
  6. ^ List of members of the Constituent Assembly[permanent dead link], Namibian Parliament website.
  7. ^ Christof Maletsky (28 August 2002): "Nujoma shuffles the Cabinet pack", The Namibian via
  8. ^ Peter Mwaura, "Namibian to lead UN General Assembly", Africa Recovery, volume 13 #2–3 (September 1999), page 4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 July 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "New parliament takes office in Namibia", VOA News, 20 March 2005.
  10. ^ "The ruling party's new Central Committee" Archived 9 March 2003 at the Wayback Machine, The Namibian, 27 August 2002.
  11. ^ Christof Maletsky, "Swapo big names dropped", The Namibian, 3 December 2007. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 July 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  12. ^ a b c d e "Theo-Ben Gurirab IPU President 2008–2011". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  13. ^ "IPU chief condemns undemocratic transition of power in Madagascar". Xinhua News Agency. 4 April 2009.
  14. ^ John Ekongo, "New MPs take their seats", New Era, 23 March 2010.
  15. ^ "Swapo undergoes massive transition... Complete overhaul in parliamentary ranks", New Era, 1 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Katjavivi is now Speaker of the National Assembly", NAMPA, 20 March 2015.
  17. ^ Shinovene Immanuel, "Katjavivi vows to keep MPs in line", The Namibian, 23 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Namibia mourns liberation hero Gurirab". Southern Times. 14 July 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
Positions in intergovernmental organisations
Preceded by
Didier Opertti Badan
President of the United Nations General Assembly
Succeeded by
Harri Holkeri
Government offices
Preceded by
Hage Geingob
Prime Minister of Namibia
Succeeded by
Nahas Angula