If we ask you about a country that suffered from Apartheid and ethnic genocide during the 20th century, few of you could imagine that the country we are talking about is Namibia.
Namibia’s history during the 20th century is truly striking. It suffered the first ethnic genocide of the twentieth century exterminating much of the native population Herero and Nama under the military command of the German Lothar von Trotha (40 years before Hitler), suffered the effects of Apartheid under occupation South African and it was not until 1990 that it was declared independent.
Namibia is a very large territory with different tribal groups living all over the country. In fact, human history in Namibia goes back a long way with the presence of the San population (Bushmen) and the Nama. They were hunter-gatherer and shepherd populations that had lived in the Namibian savannah for many thousands of years. Since the Bantu expansion into South Africa, we have also found the presence of other tribal groups such as the Damara, the Herero and the Himba. For more information on the tribes currently present in Namibia, click here.
It was not until the 15th century that we hear of the first European to set foot on the present-day territory of Namibia. This is the Portuguese explorer Bartolomé Dias who arrived in the Walvis Bay area in 1486, but when he found himself in front of the Namib Desert and a totally inhospitable land, he did not find it interesting to form a colony. and colonize it. It was not until 1793 that the Dutch, who had already occupied Cape Town, followed the coast and occupied Walvis Bay, although they did not yet dare to enter the interior of the country. This occupation lasted a few years because by the early 19th century the English had already conquered Cape Town and also Walvis Bay, and the first Catholic missions were entering the interior of the country.
In 1878 the British annexed Cape Town and Walvis Bay with a geopolitical interest in showing power to the Germans, who had already settled in the country (for example, in Swakopmund) to make companies of trade and settle there. The problem, however, arose with the conflicts between the different tribal groups that were already in the territory and the colonizers that provoked a series of clashes between the two sides in the 1980s. Europeans in Namibia called for help in Europe, and only Germany responded for theirs. This caused that during the Berlin Conference, where the great European states distributed the continent of Africa like the one who distributes cards to a board game, the present territory of Namibia comprised of Germany under the name of “ German West Africa ”.
The Europeans colonized Africa to extract from it all possible wealth for their benefit, and the way to do so, as was the case with Germany with Namibia, was with brutal repression and violence. The conflicts and massacres that happened in the later decades of the Protectorate are numerous, being most famous Batalla de Waterberg against the Herero tribe who had to take refuge in the neighboring Botswana. Even, and little has been said about it, in 1904 the German West African military command, Lothar von Trotha, advanced 40 years on Hitler and carried out a genocide against the Herero tribe by carrying out an order. of extermination that said:
“Within the German borders, all herero, whether armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, will be shot. Neither women nor children will be allowed to pass. They will be forced to return to their village; otherwise it will have to be fired upon ”(Vernichtungsbefehl -extermination order-, October 1904)
A year later, in 1905, he did the same with the Nama tribe by sending them the following message:
“Nama who decide not to give up and dare to be seen in German territory will be killed until the last one falls. Those who, at the beginning of the rebellion, have committed homicide against whites or have given orders to do so, by law, will be executed. As for the few who have not surrendered, they will pay for their boldness in the same way that the hereros did, who in their blindness believed they could succeed in a war against the powerful German emperor and the great people. German. I ask them, where are the hereros today? ” (Declaration to the “Hottentots rebels”, April 22, 1905)
During these years, about 80% of the Herero population and 50% of the Nama population disappeared and yet Germany has not apologized publicly for these ethnic genocides against these tribal groups native to Africa.
After the First World War and with the defeat of the Germans, in 1920 the country became part of the British Empire as one more Administration, although it was treated as one more province of the South African Union by plundering the lands. and bringing new settlers into the territory. So, from 1948, Namibia also experienced its “Apartheid”. Many farms were assigned to settlers of European descent, while native Africans were abandoned and relegated to utter contempt and poorer territories. It was not until 1959 that the SWAPO (People’s Organization of South West Africa) was founded to protest against apartheid and the supremacist oppression in the country.
After a long conflict with those promoting Apartheid and international pressure from the UN and other classes against the southern country, South Africa agreed to leave Namibia and oversee the transition to independence which was declared independent. in 1990, after an election in 1989 where SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma won. This party continues to rule the country today and uninterruptedly.