Did you know Namibia was one of those rare cases of African countries which struggled to obtain independence from their very own African neighbors?
One of the most fascinating countries in the African continent, Namibia is world famous for having the highest sand dunes in the world and most recently popularly called the Dubai Of Africa? You might think that’s already interesting enough, Well it gets better. In this article we’ll be travelling back in time to unravel how Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990.
Officially recognized as the Republic of Namibia, Namibia is located in the Southern part of Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean. Namibia shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and its former trustee-patron South Africa to the south and east.
Namibia is quite a small country having a population of about 2.5 million, with a gross domestic product of 10.7 billion USD and its capital and largest city is Windhoek. It is a member state of the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations. On the 21st of March 1990, Namibia gained its independence from South Africa, but that was only possible at the cost of the Namibian War of Independence.
Now to understand how the country got its independence from South Africa in the first place, let’s do some time travel back to the colonial era.
Back in 1884, Namibia was more referred to as German South West Africa, as it was a German territory which was placed under the South African administration by the League of Nations after the First World War. The Germans who usually administered their colonies by introducing minimal levels of economic and administrative establishments, developed farming and infrastructure.
Things seemed to go on well in German South West Africa until 1904 when a genocide against the Herero and Nama people of the country was ignited and lasted for good four years. The reason for the genocide was unclear at first, but soon later became obvious, that each of these ethnic groups was battling for German favors and the right to rule the other clans.
At the time, South Africa which was the next door neighbor in the east decided to intervene in the situation, joining forces with anti-German South West African tribes to resist and push out the colonial master Germany. Thus in 1915, German rule ended with a defeat by South African forces. In 1920, after the end of World War I, the League of Nations recognizing the defeat of Germany, now mandated administration of the colony to South Africa.
So initially South Africa meant to simply intervene and help Namibia get independence but in the end, underlining concealed intentions surfaced. South Africa was now a mandatory power, and as such it imposed its laws, including racial classifications and rules.
From 1948, with the National Party elected to power, this included South Africa applying apartheid to what was then known as South West Africa. Later on after the Second World War, the League of Nations was dissolved and then emerged the United Nations.
When the later was established the South African Prime Minister, General Smuts argued for the total incorporation of South West Africa into South Africa as one of its provinces. Now this was asking for a little too much and as such the request was turned down by the UN, however, it was just a matter of time before South Africa had its way.
The apartheid rules which South Africa applied on Namibia led to some really serious human rights violations which occurred at the hands of South African Defense Force (SADF) soldiers. In fact one such incident, was the Kassinga massacre, at a Namibian refugee camp in Angola on 4 May 1978.
In the later 20th century, Namibian nationals began causing uprisings and making demands for political representation by native African political activists seeking independence. This resulted in the UN assuming direct responsibility over the territory in 1966, although South Africa still maintained de facto rule.
After much conflicts and then negotiations, In 1973, the UN recognised the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people; the party was largely dominated by the Ovambo, who are a large plurality in the territory.