Namibia - Encyclopedia Information
Official name Republic of Namibia
Formation 1990 / 1994
Population 2.2 million / 7 people per sq mile (3 people per sq km)
Total area 318,694 sq. miles (825,418 sq. km)
Languages Ovambo, Kavango, English*, Bergdama, German, Afrikaans
Religions Christian 90%, Traditional beliefs 10%
Ethnic mix Ovambo 50%, Other tribes 22%, Kavango 9%, Herero 7%, Damara 7%, Other 5%
Government Presidential system
Currency Namibian dollar & South African rand = 100 cents
Literacy rate 88%
Calorie consumption 2349 kilocalories
Namibia is on the west coast of Africa, just north of South Africa.
We took an early interest in the area. In the late eighteenth century, HMS Nautilus was sent to Das Voltas Bay looking for a place for a penal colony. But it was decided to opt for New South Wales instead. Shortly after that we ‘took possession’ of a length of what is now Namibian coastline, which was news to the Portuguese who had claimed some of the same coastline about 300 years earlier. Anyway, it was all sorted out in 1815 and 1817 with us giving up claims north of Cape Fria in Namibia.
Having taking an initial interest in the area, we were unusually slow (by our standards) in trying to take genuine control. Eventually, we lost out to the Germans who, having started a lot later in building an empire, were in something of a hurry.
We only managed to hang on to two bits of present-day Namibia. Admittedly, they were very useful bits. We kept Walvis Bay, with its natural deepwater harbour. And we kept the Penguin Islands with their natural penguins (presumably) and, better still in commercial terms, their natural guano supplies. Both these became part of the Cape Colony.
In 1914, with the outbreak of war with Germany, we asked the South African government to invade what was then German South-West Africa. The Royal Navy transported South African troops north to take the port of Lüderitz in September 1914. Meanwhile, the Germans, in return, took the vulnerable Walvis Bay Enclave. So it was goodbye to our natural deepwater harbour for a bit.
On 25 September 1914, an attempt to invade from the south came to a disastrous end at the Battle of Sandfontein. The Germans struck back by briefly invading South Africa before being stopped at the Battle of Kakamas on 4 February 1915. In March, General Louis Botha started advancing inland from the coast and Namibia’s capital Windhoek was captured on 5 May 1915. Other South African columns attacked from other directions and by July the remnants of the German forces that had retreated north surrendered.
In 1920, control of Namibia was given to South Africa as a League of Nations Mandate. In 1990, after a guerrilla war fought by SWAPO, Namibia became independent, with British troops helping in the United Nations Transition Assistance Group. In 1994, Namibia even got Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands back from South Africa.