Capital : Windhoek
Size: 318 000 sq m Popn: 1 562 000
The cattle-farming Khoisan bushmen inhabited the country from prehistoric times and were joined by the Damara. The Bantu-speaking Herero and Ovambo arrived in the C16th and C17th and the Europeans in the C19th. In 1878 Britain annexed Walvis Bay, a deep-water Atlantic port, to Cape Colony and in 1884 Germany established the Protectorate of South-western Africa, agreeing borders in 1890. Opposition such as the Herero revolt of 1904-6 was savagely oppressed and European settlers took all the good land.
South Africa occupied the country in 1915 under Louis Botha and in 1920 was confirmed as the mandatory power by the League of Nations. After WWII, the United Nations wanted South Africa to accept that it was only a trustee for the territory but it insisted that it was the sovereign power, trying to impose apartheid during the 1950s and make Namibia part of South Africa. Activists in including Andimba (Herman) Toivo Ja Toivo and Sam Nujoma, of the Ovambo people, began to organise protests. SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization) was formed in 1960 and the People's Liberation Army of Namibia was formed in 1969.
Nujoma was forced in to exile and established guerrilla bases in Zambia and Angola. The armed struggle for independence began in 1966 and the country was renamed Namibia by the UN in 1968. External pressure continued but South Africa proclaimed Ovamboland as Namibia's first homeland in 1967 and Namibia was virtually made a province. Attempts to implement apartheid continued during the 1970s but SWAPO was strengthened when Angola became independent from Portugal in 1975. South Africa tried to bring down its Marxist government and the conflict spilled over into Namibia during the 1970s. Limited self-determination was allowed through the Turnhalle Constitutional Conference although this was boycotted by SWAPO.
After years of delaying tactics, South Africa entered negotiations with SWAPO in 1984 but after a period of direct rule, it established another government, the Transitional Government of National Unity, a mulit-racial body including only one Ovambo, in 1985. South Africa had linked the Namibia issue to the presence of Cuban troops in Angola, refusing to leave until they did but an agreement was reached in 1988 and both countries began to withdraw. In April 1989, a UN peace-keeping force arrived and supervised elections for a Constituent Assembly to decide on a constitution. Multi-party elections were held in November 1989. Although SWAPO won the election, it did not have a clear majority in the constituent assembly so was unable to dominate it which resulted in tee adoption of a moderate multi-party constitution in February 1990. The new government was recognized by the UN with Sam Nujoma as the first president and Hage Geingob as prime minister but South Africa kept the commercially important Walvis Bay. This caused resentment between the two governments and talks were held in March 1991 about its future, with a joint administration agreed in September.
The SWAPO government seems prepared to allow a multi-party democracy and not to just work for the interests of the Ovambu, who make up about half the population. Other groups are the Kavango, Herero, Damara, Nama, Rehoboth and Coloureds. English is the official language, the country is 80% Christian with some traditional beliefs remaining and it is a member of the Commonweath.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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