History of Namibia – Through The Ages

If you are planning a visit to Africa, one country that should be on your list is Namibia. It is a country that is diverse in culture and makes for an enriching experience. Its capital is the city of Windhoek.

The word Namibia comes from ‘The Namib Desert’, the oldest desert in the world. The country lies between Botswana, Angola, and Namibia.

Namibia is one of the very few countries in the world that have given importance to the protection and conservation of natural resources in its constitution. It places great emphasis on nature. So it’s only natural that a large number of animal and bird species can be found at their wildlife reserves.


Namibia has a rich history, one that is worth exploring. The country has seen so much, it makes one want to know all about it.

Where is Namibia

The Republic of Namibia is a country in Southwest Africa, along the Atlantic ocean. Namibia is one of the driest countries in the Sub-Saharan African region. Its neighbors are:

  •  Zambia and Angola in the north,
  • South Africa in the east and south
  • Botswana in the east. 
  • It is separated from Zimbabwe by the Zambezi river. 

Namibia Map – Namibie Kaart


Image Source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Namibia_regions_WV_map.png

Namibia’s History In Detail


Namibia has been inhabited by various people like the San, Nama, and Damara. But around the 14th century, they became a part of the Bantu expansion, where Bantu people started arriving from central Africa. 

In the 18th century, southern Namibia experienced an influx of Oorlam people. Over the years, a few more tribes such as the OvaHerero, Gobabis, and Okahandja moved into the country. They lived in harmony with the Nama people. 

However, in 1880, the war of Nama-Herero broke out, and hostilities developed among the different tribes. 


Namibia came under German rule in 1884. It came to be known as German Southwest Africa and was ruled by Otto Von Bismarck.

The Namibian people were not happy and started a rebellion against the Germans from 1904 to 1907. The Germans, in retaliation, ordered the extinction of the native tribes in the’OvaHerero and Namaqua genocide’. 

They killed around 80% of the local population- around 10,000 Namas and 65,000 Hereros. It was the first genocide of the 20th century. The survivors were put in prison and later, upon release, were subjected to forced labor, racial segregation, deportation, dispossession, and other atrocities. 

There are speculations that this Namibian genocide by the Germans was the inspiration for the Holocaust under the Nazis. 

South African possession

The South Africans overtook the Germans in Namibia during World War I, putting an end to the German rule. 

The Treaty of Versailles allowed South Africa to retain possession of southwest Africa. South Africa could rule over the region until the country became capable of running itself. The South Africans, not wanting to lose control over the southwest, never let it become fully ready for an autonomous rule.

When the United Nations was formed in 1945, it asked all former countries to surrender the territories for which they were the ‘trustees’, to their Trusteeship Council. South Africa refused and wanted to annex. 

The period of 1949 to 1966 saw conflict between South Africa and the United Nations as the former started strengthening its control over southwest Africa. 

South Africa started imposing ‘apartheid’. It started developing regions adjacent to it. The blacks and other indigenous people were subjected to injustice and were discriminated against. In the early 1960s, attempts were made by the southwest region to become independent and global pressure was mounting on South Africa. 

In 1966, the South African Border war started, which led to an armed insurgency in the region.



The UN declared South Africa’s failure in honoring its own mandate with regards to the southwestern region of Africa. On 12th June 1968, Southwest Africa was named Namibia. Its possession by South Africa was declared illegal. SWAPO, which was responsible for leading the movement was renamed the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia.

During the Cold war, SWAPO which was fighting for Namibian independence received support from the Soviet Union, in opposition to South Africa. The Tripartite Accord was finally signed which granted independence from South Africa to Namibia. 

South African troops finally withdrew from the region, prisoners were released, refugees were allowed to return home, and elections were held. The first parliamentary elections saw a voter turnout of 97%. 

The constitution was adopted in 1990. Independence day came to be celebrated on 21st March 1990 and the first President was Sam Nujoma.

Namibia today is a democratic nation, with multiple parties in its parliament. The government has made every effort to pardon and re-establish the lives of people involved in both sides of the civil war. 

Some Unknown Namibian Facts

  • The people of Namibia speak more than 30 languages
  • The largest population of free-roaming cheetahs in the world are found here
  • The second-largest population of free-roaming black rhinos are found here
  • It’s home to the second-largest canyon in the world, the Fish River Canyon
  • The biggest gravesite for ships and sailors, the Skeleton Coast is in Namibia
  • The population density of Namibia is the second least in the world, only after Mongolia
  • It is one of the only two nations in the world to have desert elephants
  • Namibia is home to some of the highest sand dunes in the world- The Sossusvlei Sand Dunes
  • The Namibian Dollar and South African Rand are used interchangeably
  • Dragon’s Breath Cave in Namibia is home to the largest non-subglacial, underwater lake in the world

Wrapping Up the History of Namibia


Namibia is full of stories, given its history. Due to the diverse rulers to have ruled it, influences from different cultures can be found in the Namibian culture. You can see German and a little bit of the South African influence in their way of life. 

If you happen to pass through Namibia or plan a trip specifically to the country, do make sure to visit the sites of historic importance. Each site has sentiments attached, with multiple tales associated with it. 

Every country has a past, and Namibia is no exception. The country has come a long way in being democratic from its colonial days. And there is no stopping it, with the government constantly making efforts for development.


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