Namibia’s History and Government
The traces of history visible in Namibia today reach far past the advent of human kind. Geological formations such as the Fish River Canyon reach back many millions of years. The Namib is the world’s oldest desert enduring dry conditions for at least 55 million years and meteorite, petrified forests and dinosaur footprints are visible traces of events that date back further than human history. The arid landscape of Namibia is sparsely populated and hardly moved by time. Neither time nor humanity had a great impact on the grand vistas of this country. The pristine state and age of Namibia’s features are the essence of its deeply moving allure.
Namibia was and still is home to one of the first cultures known to mankind. The San people once inhabited large parts of Southern Africa. These semi-nomadic hunter gatherer left rock art and paintings all over the country. Some of the engravings date back more than 20 000 years. Other early inhabitants were the Nama and the Damara; both related to the Khoisan tribes. The Nama were nomadic cattle farmers, while the Damara were hunters. Tribal migrations in the 16th century lead Bantu tribes such as the Owambo and the Herero into the country. The arid conditions in Namibia favoured a nomadic lifestyle, which lead to many conflicts between the cultural groups.
Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to leave traces in Namibia. Diego Cão planted a stone cross at Cape Cross in 1486 and Bartolomeu Dias erected the Dias Cross in Lüderitz in 1488. The first missionary stations were established at Warmbad and Blydeverwacht in 1805.
German colonial rule took its course when the German merchant Adolf Lüderitz opened a trading post and ask chancellor Otto von Bismarck for protection. The town of Lüderitz became part of the German empire in 1884. The German originally had little interest in the arid expanse that was protected by rough seas and miles of desert sand. However, the when the Nama and Herero started fighting with the help of arms acquired from British Walvis Bay, the Germans embarked on a peacekeeping mission. The Schutztruppe started erecting fort around the country and soon farmers, merchants and other settlers started populating what was then known as South West Africa. In the late 1890s the German negotiated the borders with the Portuguese in Angola and the British in Bechuanaland.
German rule was marked by bloody wars with the Nama and the Herero. During World War I the Germans were driven out of Namibia by the British aided South Africans. The League of Nations granted South Africa the right to administer South West Africa. During the 1950s the UN pressured South Africa to give up control of the northern neighbour, but instead the South African government gave white Namibians parliamentary representation in Pretoria and drove other cultural groups into so-called homelands.
The South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) was the strongest force in Namibia’s struggle for independence. In 1966 SWAPO launched a campaign of guerrilla warfare and appealed to the International Court of Justice to free the country from South African rule. In 1972 the UN declared South Africa’s occupation of Namibia illegal. On 21 March 1990 Sam Nujoma was sworn in as Namibia’s first president, thereby ending 106 years of foreign rule.
Namibia has a democratic constitution that provides the division of power between the executive, legislature and judiciary. The president is voted directly by the electorate for a five-year term and is supports a Prime Minister. The two houses of parliament are elected one by the country’s regions and one directly. Namibia’s multiparty system is dominated by the SWAPO.