SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma

History of Namibia

Prior to year 0, the San people were the only inhabitants of the area that today is Namibia. Then nomads emigrated from the khoikhoi and the Nama people to the Orange River, which now forms the border between South Africa and Namibia. The San, the Khoikhoi and the Nama are all subgroups of the Khoisan people. In the 800s, the Damara, another khoisan group, also migrated to the region.

SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma

SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma during the 1999 election campaign. Nujoma was inaugurated as the country’s first president on March 21, 1990 after his party gained a pure majority in the election. He was re-elected by an overwhelming margin in 1994 and 1999 and retired in 2005.

The Bantu did not migrate to Namibia until the 17th century. Then the heroes, a nomadic people, came to the northern parts of the country.

The first European to come to the region was Portuguese Diogo Cão. On a voyage of discovery on behalf of King Johan II, he came as far south as the Cape Cross. The name comes from the fact that Cão set up a stone cross in several places along the coast, to mark where he had traveled.

The Dutch were the first colonists in the area. In 1793 they took control of Walvis Bay, a natural harbor. When the British occupied the Cape Colony four years later, they also took over Walvis Bay. Otherwise, Europeans showed little interest in the area until the end of the 19th century, when residents moved north from South Africa.

The German merchant Adolf Lüderitz bought a piece of land along the coast from the Nama chief Joseph Fredericks in 1883. He then recommended Otto von Bismarck to claim the territory, which he did in 1884.

The colony was named German South West Africa. After an agreement with Britain in 1890, Germany also gained the Caprivistripen, which gave the colony access to Zambezi and a transport route to German East Africa.

In January 1904, the heroes, led by Samuel Maharero, revolted against the German colonial power. The riot was brutally beaten. The Nama rebelled later that year. 10,000 Namas and between 24,000 and 100,000 gentlemen lost their lives. Many died of thirst and hunger after being driven into the desert.

The survivors, largely women and children, were sent to concentration camps and put to slave labor. Many died from exhaustion, hunger and illness. Medical experiments were also carried out on the prisoners. The events later became known as the Herero Genocide.

After World War I, South Africa took over the administration of the colony. South Africa’s mandate was withdrawn by the UN General Assembly in 1966, but the country refused to withdraw.

People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), the military part of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) started a guerrilla war against the occupying power that year. After several years of negotiations and international pressure, the parties agreed to lay down their weapons. On February 9, 1990, Namibia became an independent state.

Rock carvings at Twyfelfontein

Rock carvings at Twyfelfontein, Namibia about 5000 years old.

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