Storm over presidential children in Dubai

Hage Geingob and first lady Monica Geingos. Photo: Namibian Presidency

President Hage Geingob and first lady Monica Geingos are facing growing backlash about the presence of their children at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) being held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December.

The couple has, however, denied allegations that the state had paid for their children’s travel costs.

The Namibian Presidency has defended the presidential children featuring on a provisional list of the Namibian delegation published by the climate change conference secretariat, saying it was for “administrative purposes”.

The children named as part of the Namibian delegation are Kayla Elago, Nino Kalondo, Dangos Geingos, and Nangula Geingob.

This is along with the first lady’s brother, Salomo Kalondo.

Namibia has 142 delegates on the provisional list.

Geingob’s press secretary, Alfredo Hengari, yesterday told The Namibian: “They are part of the delegation for administrative purposes. However, the material fact is that their expenses are paid for by the first couple.”

He did not explain what “administrative purposes” meant as messages sent to him went unanswered.

In a press statement yesterday, the presidential couple came out strongly against critics who allege that their children travel on the government’s account.

Nino Kalondo

“The Namibian public and the media should rest assured that not a single cent of public funds has been spent on the children of the first couple,” the statement reads.

“For the past nine years, president Geingob and the first lady have not deviated from the treasury regulations of the government of the Republic of Namibia, which make it explicitly clear that children of the first family do not qualify for flight tickets and expenses to be paid for by the government,” it reads.

Hengari did not respond to a request to show flight tickets.

It is not the first time a presidential child is travelling with the first couple.

The first lady’s son was seen with Geingob’s entourage while the president was on official business at the African Energy Week conference.

Nino opted not to comment on his presence in Dubai, while Nangula did not respond to a question sent to her at the time of going to print.

Geingob in October attended the conference in Cape Town, where he received the African Energy Chamber’s 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Addressing the issue of provisional 142-person delegation, the Presidency said private sector companies paid for their own expenses.

“The Presidency also wishes to assure the Namibian public that the delegation list in the public domain includes private sector entities, which paid for their own expenses and does not reflect the correct size of the interministerial Namibian delegation, which is much smaller,” the statement reads.

The first couple further said questions about the presence of their children in Dubai with them are malicious and politically motivated.

“President Geingob and madame Geingos paid for the flights and accommodation expenses of their children.

Nangula Geingob

“The Presidency considers these allegations to be malicious and politically motivated, with the clear intent to detract from the excellent work president Geingob and the Namibian delegation have been carrying out at COP 28,” the statement reads.

One of these critics is member of parliament Inna Hengari.

She questioned why the first couple’s family members were part of the delegation representing the country on X (formerly Twitter).

“I hope the colleagues will conduct a thorough investigation on money spent, source of funds, and most importantly, which individuals travelled on taxpayers’ money,” she said in one of her tweets.

Political analyst Henning Melber says despite the list being provisional, the question remains why the presidential children’s names were submitted on this official list.

“Meanwhile, they have stressed that they covered all expenses for their children, and that is okay, but we still require a closer forensic look,” Melber says.

“Did the four children travel on their own? Were the travel arrangements made privately? Who took care of these arrangements?
Were all costs covered, not only travel, but also accommodation, food and any other services? Did they occupy seats in the presidential jet or were they flying on commercial planes?”

He further asked why the children are accompanying the presidential couple on official business abroad.

“The question still remains why these children are accompanying the presidential couple on official business. These need very clear answers . . . there are a lot of questions that State House needs to answer upon return,” Melber says.

Hengari did not say why the children travelled with the first couple.

Analyst Rui Tyitende says proof of the flight tickets and accommodation payments should be provided.

This is not the first time a conflict of interest regarding the presidential children have been questioned.

In 2016, Geingob promoted a company co-owned by his daughter during a visit to France.

He went on a week-long trip that took him to Paris, Havana and London from 27 to 30 November 2016.

The Presidency said the trip to France and the United Kingdom was to “strengthen investment and enhance trade opportunities for Namibia”.

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