Photo Credit: (Michele Spatari / AFP)

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob passed away early Sunday at a Windhoek hospital, according to an announcement from his office. He was 82 years old. Geingob, who served his second term as president and held the distinction of being his nation’s inaugural prime minister following independence, disclosed last month that he was undergoing cancer treatment.

His recent actions included endorsing South Africa’s complaint against Israel under the Genocide Convention and criticizing Germany, Namibia’s former colonial power, for its rejection of the case.

A statement signed by acting president Nangolo Mbumba conveyed the news, stating, “It is with utmost sadness and regret that I inform you that our beloved Dr. Hage G. Geingob, the President of the Republic of Namibia, has passed on today. At his side, was his dear wife Madame Monica Geingos and his children.” Geingob’s office had previously announced the discovery of “cancerous cells” following a routine medical check-up in January.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed condolences, stating, “Today, South Africa joins the people of our sister state Namibia in mourning the passing of a leader, patriot and friend of South Africa.” He hailed Geingob as a pivotal figure in Namibia’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid, as well as a staunch supporter of South Africa’s freedom.

Kenyan President William Ruto lauded Geingob’s commitment to a united Africa and his efforts to amplify the continent’s voice globally.

Geingob, who became president in 2014, held the distinction of being Namibia’s longest-serving prime minister and third president. He underwent brain surgery in 2013 and an aortic operation in South Africa last year.

Until his passing, Geingob had been undergoing treatment at Lady Pohamba Hospital in Windhoek. Acting president Mbumba described him as a “distinguished servant of the people, a liberation struggle icon, the chief architect of our constitution and the pillar of the Namibian house.”

Mbumba appealed for calm and announced that the cabinet would promptly convene to manage necessary state arrangements.

Born in a northern Namibian village in 1941, Geingob broke ethnic barriers by becoming Namibia’s first president outside of the Ovambo group, which constitutes over half of the nation’s population. He actively opposed South Africa’s apartheid regime and represented the SWAPO liberation movement at the United Nations in 1964. After spending nearly three decades in Botswana and the United States, he returned to Namibia in 1989 to lead SWAPO’s election campaign in the newly independent nation.

Namibia is preparing for presidential and national assembly elections later this year.