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The History of Namibia

The area we know today as Namibia has historically been sparsely populated by hunter and sank cultures. From the 17th century onwards several groups migrated into the area, from the north came cattle drivers like nama and hereo. From the south came African speakers from the Cape Colony. In the 19th century, Germany claimed territory. The colonization of the Germans was very brutal, and during World War I the British conquered the area and left it under the South African Union.

History of Namibia

Neither the League of Nations nor the heir UN accepted South Africa's supremacy over South West Africa. In the 1960s, there was also an armed liberation movement in neighboring countries. The country first became independent in 1989.

Older history

Relatively little is known about Namibia's oldest history, but finds of more than 25,000-year-old cave paintings point in the direction that the San people were the country's earliest inhabitants. The San people lived in ancient times throughout southern Africa, but were displaced north after the establishment of the Europeans in the southern part of the continent in the 1600s. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Namibia.

Hunting and retreat were the basis of life for the wandering San people, who were gradually displaced by other immigrant peoples. First of these were the nomadic cattle people, nama, then damara, who ran both cattle keeping and hunting, as well as copper smelting. The heroes, who settled in the north-eastern and central parts of the country, also kept cattle and developed a nation with central leadership under a chief.

In the north, the Ovambo people formed several state formations, on both sides of the Kunene River, and farmed. In the northeast, the related kavango people established state formation.

Colonization and genocide

European states later showed interest in Namibia than most other territories in Africa, despite the fact that Portuguese seafarers landed on the Namibian coast as early as 1486 without establishing either trading stations or fortifications.

In the 1670s, Africans (residents) from South Africa explored parts of Namibia, and from around 1790 African traders and settlers came to the country, up to Etosha Pan and the Ovambo kingdoms. In the early 1800s, overlam Nama cattle raiders immigrated from the Cape Colony and established a state formation around Windhoek, led by Chief Jonker Afrikaner. Some time later, a group from Cape settled down south of Windhoek, later known as Rehoboth Basters. Movement of Namas to the north and gentlemen to the south caused armed conflict in central parts of the country.

In the 19th century, European missionaries established themselves in later Namibia; British and German in the south, Finnish in the north. The German missionaries agitated for annexation. European traders and hunters operated in the area, which in 1876 was placed under the British crown as a protectorate, and from 1884 administered as part of the Cape Colony. This led to the assumption that the United Kingdom would subjugate all of Namibia, as an extension of the Cape Colony. Nevertheless, at the Berlin Conference in 1884–1885, the area was awarded to Germany under the name German South West Africa.

In the years that followed, the German flag was raised in settlements along the coast from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River in the north, with the exception of the whaling station in Walvis Bay. From 1885 Germany established a colony administration and entered into agreements with local leaders. In 1891, the Alte Feste fort was built in Windhoek, which then became the seat of German colonial rule, and later the country's capital.

The German government in South West Africa was one of the most ruthless in colonial history. Between the establishment of the colony in 1885 and up to the turn of the century, 3000 German settlers arrived in the central highlands. Here they expelled the gentlemen from their traditional pastures.

The Nama people, led by Hendrik Witbooi, would not submit and were attacked by a German force in 1893-1894. This led to the Namas becoming the Allies of the Germans in a German divide and rule policy. In 1904, the heroes, led by Samuel Maherero, revolted. The commander of the German forces, General Lothar von Trotha, ordered the total extermination of the men's men, who were killed during the Battle of Waterberg. Those who were not killed were driven out into the Kalahari desert, where many thirst and starve to death. Von Trotha's forces continue to hunt for survivors in the desert, those trapped were put in labor camps, which were given the German term concentration camp - concentration camp. The mortality rate in these camps was very high, and the camps were a direct precursor to camps used by Nazis in Europe 30 years later.

The Nama people also eventually joined the rebellion. The Germans responded with the same strategy as above the heroes, Nama was chased, killed and banished to camp. 1800 of them were sent to Shark Island, a concentration camp outside the port city of Lüderitz, where up to 80 percent died. Including several of the rebellious leadership figures. Hedrik Witbooi was killed in 1907. Thus, opposition to the German government was in fact also suppressed, but occasional guerrilla activity continued until 1909.

Most researchers agree that the genocide of herero and nama was the first genocide of the 20th century. Around 100,000 people, mainly herero, were killed between 1904 and 1907. The descendants of herero and nama survivors have for several years sought compensation from the German state, which they have so far not achieved.

Under foreign rule

The South African Union joined the British side in World War I and conquered South Africa in 1914. When King Mandume of Oukwanyama in Ovamboland was defeated in a military campaign in 1917, the northernmost part of the territory came under foreign control as well. After the war, South African forces continued to hold the territory. It was ruled by military law until it became a mandate area under the League of Nations in 1920. Thereafter, the area was ruled by the South African Union on behalf of the British Crown.

In practice, South West Africa was incorporated into the Union, South African legislation was introduced. Among other things, this meant that Africans could only live in specially reserved reserves and still serve as cheap labor for European agriculture and for mining companies, in line with the colonial system of contract work. Resistance from several African groups was, as before, defeated. About half of the German population was deported or voluntarily. Immigration of whites from South Africa was encouraged, and in 1925 the South African government gave the white residents of the territory limited self-government. In 1949, these were represented in the South African National Assembly.

In 1933, the South African government asked the League of Nations for permission to incorporate South West Africa into the South Africa Union, but the request was rejected. After the UN replaced the League of Nations, the inquiry was repeated in 1946, but the UN instead turned the country into a "supervisory area", a regulation South Africa refused to accept. In 1950, the international court ruled that South Africa was not fit to govern Southwest Africa as a supervisory area, but South Africa would not give up its control over the territory.

In 1966, the UN General Assembly resolved to end the mandate so that the South African Republic no longer had the right to administer the country. The following year, the United Nations appointed a council to govern the country, which had little practical role as South Africa refused to hand over control of the territory, which from 1967 was given the name Namibia. In 1977, South Africa annexed Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands, which were then administered as part of the Cape Province.

South African apartheid policies were also being introduced in Namibia, including through the creation of the bantustan. Although South Africa reportedly incorporated Namibia, Namibia became increasingly economically integrated with South Africa.

Release Process

Organized resistance to the South African government grew in the 1950s. In 1957, the Ovamboland People's Congress was formed based on Ovamboland and the country's largest group of people, north of the country. In 1960, OPC became the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO).

In 1966, SWAPO started an armed liberation war in Namibia, with its military branch, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). The South African occupation of Namibia increased in size from the mid-1970s. In 1974, the UN Security Council reiterated its demand for South Africa to withdraw from Namibia. South Africa did not want to abide by this and instead launched a kind of "constitutional conference", called the Turnhalle Conference, on the future of Namibia. Here a future was drawn for Namibia similar to that in South Africa, with apartheid laws and self-governing bantustans along ethnic lines.

After neighboring Angola became independent in 1975, PLAN bases were established in Angola, and SWAPO relocated its headquarters to Luanda. Shortly after independence, South Africa invaded Angola, but was knocked back. In 1978 SWAPO was recognized by the UN as legitimate representatives of the Namibian people, the same year South Africa initiated another invasion of Angola. At the small town of Cassinga in Angola, the South Africans attacked a refugee camp made up of both PLAN and civilian refugees. According to later studies by Angola and SWAPO, around 600 civilians were killed, as well as an unknown number of PLAN soldiers. This was the beginning of what in South Africa became known as the "border war", the arena was southern Angola, the border areas between the two countries and eventually the Caprivi Strip in Namibia. In the mid-1980s, there were an estimated 100,000 South African soldiers in Namibia, at the same time as a Namibian military force was being built (South West African Territory Force, SWATF).

In 1983, the successor of the Turnhalle Conference came together in the Multi-Party Conference (MPC). This was also boycotted by SWAPO. Neither the government nor the National Assembly was elected, and the Namibian National Assembly did not have the opportunity to make decisions about Namibia's future status. In 1985, South Africa established a transitional government of the National Unity (TGNU). The first direct meeting between SWAPO and South Africa was held at Cape Verde in 1984, also without results.

The idea of ​​linking Namibia's independence to Cuba's withdrawal from Angola was first raised by the United States in 1981. This eventually became South Africa's position as well. Negotiations on Namibian independence in the 1980s were therefore closely linked to developments in Angola, and a breakthrough came only after the Soviet- US approach came to fruition as a result of the Soviet glass nostril. A possible withdrawal of South African troops from Namibia was linked to a withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. The Cubans had intervened in Angola in 1975 to stop the South African invasion. In March 1988, South Africa suffered its greatest military defeat at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola. After negotiations, it became so-called The Brazzaville agreement between Angola, Cuba and South Africa was adopted on December 22, 1988. This allowed for a complete Cuban withdrawal from Angola and removed South Africa's main objection to agreeing to the implementation of the UN resolution.

The Angola peace plan was activated in April 1989, and at the same time the UN resolution was implemented in Namibia. This meant the establishment of a United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) civilian/military force, consisting of 4650 soldiers, 500 policemen and about 1,000 civilian observers; Norway participated with police and election observers. South Africa then began to withdraw its soldiers. Along the border with Angola and Zambia, a demilitarized zone of 50 kilometers wide was established under UN control. At the same time, Namibian refugees from abroad began returning home, including SWAPO's exile leadership. The majority of the approximately 80,000 refugees returned to Namibia in the summer of 1989.

TGNU was dissolved on March 1, 1989 and General Manager Louis Pienaar took over the governance of Namibia alone, from April 1, in consultation with the UN Special Envoy, Finland's later President Martti Ahtisaari. The relocation of PLAN soldiers from Angola into northern Namibia on April 1 led to clashes with South African forces and created a temporary crisis in the implementation of the peace plan. Over 300 PLAN soldiers were reported killed in the fighting.


The election to the Legislative Assembly was held under the supervision of UNTAG in November 1989, and was won by a clear margin of SWAPO, which received 57.3 percent of the vote and a pure majority with 41 out of 72 representatives in the Assembly. The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) became the main opposition party, with 21 representatives. SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma was elected Namibia's first president by the National Assembly. On March 21, 1990, Namibia became an independent republic.

SWAPO strengthened its position in the subsequent parliamentary elections, and in the 1994 elections they received just over 76 percent of the vote. Nujoma was re-elected in 1994, and Parliament amended the Constitution in 1998 so that he could be re-elected for a third term, in 1999. This prompted the SWAPO veteran and union leader Ben Ulenga to form Congress of Democrats (COD), which became the largest opposition party. COD did not weaken SWAPO, but further divided the opposition.

In the 2004 election, which was also won by a clear margin of SWAPO, the national father Nujoma resigned in 2005 and was followed by another veteran of the liberation struggle, Hifikepunye Pohamba, who received 75.4 percent of the vote. He led SWAPO to a new electoral victory in November 2009, with a rallying party from the ruling party, Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), as the second largest party. Also in the 2014 elections, SWAPO retained the majority with a record turnout of 86 percent. Party leader Hage Geingob became president. He was re-elected to the post at the 2019 election, but now the turnout has dropped to 56 percent. This is the lowest turnout a presidential candidate from SWAPO has had since the release.

As a government party, SWAPO has pursued a moderate, social democratic policy of mixed economy, but without making the major changes, as the liberation movement agitated. The close economic ties to South Africa were further strengthened after the regime change there in 1994. No fundamental changes were made to the colonial settler economy, although in 1995 a land reform, which was gradually implemented, was not implemented. In 2005, the first expropriations of large farms (owned by whites) were carried out - for the distribution of land to (black) small farmers. The goal is to provide land for about 250,000 landless people.

With its dominant size, SWAPO has been in control of developments in Namibia without resorting to direct political repression. Equally, the party is accused of power arrogance, with a regime like the one-party government. Among other things, the party has been accused of abusing the state apparatus in election campaigns, and questions have been asked about the independence of the judicial system. Discontent in the Caprivi Strip in 1999 led to an unsuccessful armed uprising there, initiated by the Caprivi Liberation Front (CLF). In 2007, ten men were convicted of treason for standing behind this uprising.

Namibia's constitution does not specifically take into account the indigenous population and has not signed international conventions; the san people experience discrimination - even though the constitution prohibits ethnic discrimination. A basis for the post-independence policy has been national reconciliation, but the san is to some extent oblivious because many were enlisted by the military units of the apartheid regime. San is a small and vulnerable group of people of about 35,000, as is the Himba people on the Kunene River, which number about 15,000.

A particularly vulnerable issue is internal conditions in SWAPO during the liberation war, as it was conducted in the hunting of alleged agents of the enemy. Many were interned and tortured, first in Tanzania and Zambia, then in the SWAPO base area in Angola; 700 should also have disappeared. The party itself claims that it has done nothing wrong. In 2007, human rights groups asked the International Criminal Court to investigate former President Nujoma for the killings committed by SWAPO, without causing any formal indictment.

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