Early History of Namibia

There are no reliable records of the early history of Namibia. The first clues of human existence are very scarce. The oldest pre historic find was found in the Combat Mine of Otavi. It is a 12 million year old jaw bone called Otavipithecus namibiensis.The first rock paintings were found in the Apollo 11 cave in the Huns mountains in the southern area of Namibia. Their age is calculated at around 25,000 BC.

The other rock paintings are not as old, for example the paintings at Twyfelfontein. But we can be relative sure that bush men have lived in Namibia since 3000 BC. In the 15th  century Bantu shepherds from the eastern area of Africa moved into the north and north western part of Namibia. The Himba remained in Kaokoveld and the Herero later moved farther south where they ran into the Nama, who were moving northward from the Orange River.

Pre Colonial History

The pre colonial time at the beginning of the 19th  century is the time oft the missionaries. The  Rhine Mission was very active in southern Namibia. The first stone church (and stone house) was built in Bethany in 1811 by the missionary Heinrich Schmelen. Many other Missionary settlements and churches followed, for example at Otjimbingwe, Okahandja and Gobabis. The missionaries were the only traders, scientists and adventures.

In 1840 the Nama chief Jan Jonker founded a settlement in the area of Klein Windhock where there was plenty of water. This settlement later became the capital Windhoek. The missionaries of the Rhine Mission under the leadership of Carl Hugo Hahn settled here shortly afterwards.

The second half of the 19th  century was marked by bitter tribal warring between the Nama and the Herero,   They were fighting for prairie and hunting grounds of which there was a shortage because of an unusually long dry period. In 1880 the Herero under the leadership of Maharero took Windhock from the Nama. This was the beginning of the last big war which lasted 10 years.

German Colonial Period

In the beginning of the German Colonial period it was very difficult to acquire settlers for the colony. The main problem was the long- lasting war between the Herero and the Nama. The German military landed at Walvis Bay in 1889 and consisted of only 23 men and their leader Captain Kurt von Francois.

The main job of the German troops was to find a diplomatic solution for the tribes who continued to fight with each other. The Nama, under the leadership of Hendrik Witbooi  rebelled against the new colonial power.

Francois ´replacement Major Theodor Leutwein  finally managed to make a peace treaty in 1894 with the Namas which held until 1904.

Although the German government was very generous in giving farmlands to interested parties, the settlement of the country was very slow. In 1897  rinderpest broke out in the country. Almost half of the cattle herds were lost and the transport system  which was based on oxcarts was also severely affected.

In spite of these problems around 1000  white settlers were living in  Namibia in 1904.

On the 12th of January 1904  the Herero under the leader  Samuel Maharero rebelled  against the German colony power.  He led 6000 fighters-operating out of Okahandja- against the settlers and German military and the casualties were many. Only after reinforcements with heavy artillery  and the old campaigner General Lothar von Trotha took over the command did the Germans manage to turn the tide of defeat.

The Hereros were finally defeated in the battle of Waterberg on the 12th of August 1904. The survivors including women and children were forced to flee into the flatlands of Omaheke in the Kalahari where water was very scarce. Many died of thirst.

Only 2 months later, in October 1904 , the Namas in the south rebelled. They had missed the historic chance to unite with the Herero against the Germans.

But they were not easy to defeat. The fighting lasted until March 1907 and ended with the signing of the so called protection treaty.

After this the German colony South Africa  was in it`s heyday .  In only a few years the number of German settlers increased 10 fold.  In 1908 diamonds were discovered near Lüderitz. Mining developed in other areas as well, for example  in Tsumeb and Otavi. The First World War was the end of the German colony.  Already in 1915 the German troops capitulated in Tsumeb to the British-South African troops. German Southwest Africa became a protectorate of the Union of South Africa.

South-West Africa

After the signing of the Versailles treaty, German South-West Africa was ruled by the South African government.

4000 Germans left the country, but most stayed in spite of everything. South Africa sent Boer farmers to settle the country especially in the South. In 1951 the unholy Apartheid law was established in South-West Africa. After the  Odendaal Plan was put into effect. Homelands were established between 1964 and 1966. Blacks were forced to move.

The UNO took the Mandate away from South Africa in 1966. South Africa refused to recognise this resolution and also refused to turn the country over to UNO troops. The SWAPO (South-West African Peoples Organisation) under the leadership of their president Sam Nujoma  began in the same year their armed  rebellion. The fighting took place around the Angolian  borders in the Northwest.

Namibias independence

The wrestling between the UNO and South Africa and also the armed fighting of the SWAPO lasted 23 years: On 11th November 1989 the first free elections took place. The SWAPO won the election with 57% of the votes. In 1990 the constitution was passed. Sam Nujoma became president and Namibia was accepted into the UNO as the 151 member.

In 1993 Namibia began printing their own money. The Namibia dollar (N$, NAD) was coupled to the South African Rand because Namibias economy is tightly connected to South Africa.  Walvis Bay, Namibias only important deep see harbour was returned to Namibia in 1994. This was the last step to independence.



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