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tiistai 10. toukokuuta 2016

Namibia, Cool Facts #113

<= 112. Malawi                                                                                                               114. Nigeria =>

1. Namibian Flag 

The Namibian flag got its colors from SWAPO's flag, which was the liberation movement in Namibia. The SWAPO flag stripes were rotated into oblique position and white stripes and the sun were added. 

The meaning of the flag elements: 

Sun = represents the energy of life, which shines bright to the population freed from repression 
Sun rays = the 12 sun rays represent the 12 ethnic groups in Namibia
Blue = represents the sky and the Atlantic Ocean characterizing the importance of water and rainfall
Red = refers to the population and to its heroism 
Green = represents the plant kingdom
White = color of peace and unity 

SWAPO flag

2. German South-West Africa  

In 1884 Namibia became a German colony under Otto von Bismarck's leadership. The German rule lasted until 1915 when South Africa occupied the colony after defeating the German forces during the World War I.

In 1904 the Herero people rose against the German occupiers, which started a conflict lasting until 1907. Other tribes joined the uprising like the Nama people.

During the conflict half of the Nama people were killed and about 80% of the Herero people. Some historians have speculated that the genocide in Namibia was a model used by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

The survivors, who were released from detention were subjected to deportation, forced labour, racial segregation and discrimination. The event was called the the "first genocide of the twentieth century" and the German government apologized for the genocide in 2004.

Herero prisoners
Herero people who escaped the genocide

3. South-West Africa 

South Africa ruled Namibia as South-West Africa between 1915-1990. South Africa established their apartheid policies in 1948, which affected Namibia also. Native territories were turned into "Bantustans" or "homelands" where non-white people were placed.

After the World War I League of Nations gave South-West Africa to the UK under the administration of South Africa. Namibia was a de facto fifth province of South Africa and it refused to surrender its mandate, when the United Nations demanded it in 1946.

The liberation movement SWAPO started its armed resistance in 1960. In 1966 UN cancelled South Africa's right to administer Namibia and in 1971 the International Court of Justice stated that the South African rule in Namibia was illegal. Despite all this South Africa continued ruling Namibia.

SWAPO had bases in Angola and South Africa occupied a big part of southern Angola supporting simultaneously the UNITA guerrillas during the Angolan civil war. Finally in 1988 South Africa, Angola and Cuba with the USSR and USA as observers made an agreement, which led to the withdrawal of the South African troops from Namibia.

Between 1989-1990 UN peace keeping force UNTAG, led by Finnish Martti Ahtisaari, was deployed to monitor the peace process and elections. Namibia gained independence finally in 1990 and changed its name from South-West Africa to Namibia.

Martti Ahtisaari in negotiations in 1989

Namibian Bantustans

4. Between Two Deserts 

Namibia is located between two big deserts, Namib and Kalahari. The country has got its name from Namib Desert, which is probably the oldest desert in the world being around 55-80 million years old. It has the highest dunes after the Chinese desert of Badain Jaran.

The Kalahari Desert covers much of Botswana and parts of Namibia. It sustains much more animal and plant life than a true desert like the Namib Desert.

The Namib Desert covers nearly the whole coast and it prevented the Europeans to invade the area for a long time. Europeans arrived to the present-day Namibia already in 1485 but they started colonizing the area as late as in the 1800s.

Namibia map
Kalahari Desert
Namib Desert

5. Namibian Economy

Namibia produces almost one third of the world's natural diamonds. It's also a leading exporter of uranium and copper. The mining activities are in the hands of South African and Western companies. 

GDP in Namibia is quite high in African standards but the wealth is distributed very unevenly. The gap between rich and poor is even deeper than in other African countries. 

About 10% of the population are White, but their income is over 100 times higher than the average of the Black. The White Namibians control the economy and politics. 

The challenge after independence has been figuring out how to become free from the apartheid mentality imposed by South Africa, when it ruled Namibia until its independence. Especially problematic have been the land ownership issues. 


1300s The Bantu people started arriving from central Africa to the areas inhabited by the San, Damara and Nama people since early times
1485 The Portuguese navigator Diogo Cao was the first European to disembark present-day Namibia and a year later by Bartolomeu Dias, however the Portuguese crown didn't try to claim the area
1700s The Orlam clans from Cape colony crossed the Orange River and moved to the present-day southern Namibia
1800s White settlers started moving from Cape Colony to present-day Namibia, the missionaries, traders and soldiers followed them in the end of the century
1870s Finnish Christian missions started at the area
1880 The Nama-Herero War broke out after the Orlam encountered the Herero tribe at Windhoek, Gobabis and Okahandja, the Imperial Germany was involved in the conflict
1884 Namibia became a German colony but the British kept Walvis Bay, which was annexed to the Cape province of British South Africa
1904-1907 The Herero and Nama people fought against the German occupiers and as a punitive action the Germans killed half of the Nama people and about 80% of the Herero people
1908 A vast diamond deposit was discovered from the Namib desert
1915 South Africa occupied the colony after defeating the German forces during the World War I
1919 South Africa ruled the colony onwards as a League of Nations mandate, they wanted to annex it but didn't do it
1946 League of Nations was replaced by United Nations, South Africa refused to surrender its earlier mandate as UN wanted to monitor Namibia's (South-West African then) administration and make a schedule towards independence
1966 International Court of Justice dismissed Liberia's and Ethiopia's complaint about South Africa's presence in Namibia, in response to this decision SWAPO and other groups started the armed struggle for independence
1978 UN Security Counsil passed UN Resolution 435, which was a plan for transition towards independence in Namibia, South Africa still kept fighting
1988 South Africa, Angola and Cuba with the USSR and USA as observers made an agreement after which South Africa agreed to withdraw its troops from Namibia
1989-1990 UN peace keeping force UNTAG, led by Finnish Martti Ahtisaari, was deployed to monitor the peace process and elections
1990 Namibia became independent and elected SWAPO's leader Sam Nujoma as the first president
1994 South Africa ceded Walvis Bay to Namibia
2005 The transition of power went smoothly as Hifikepunye Pohamba became the president after Nujoma's 15-year rule

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