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Early history

Originally Namibia was home to the San people. It is unclear when the Damara people first established themselves throughout the inland area of the country, but it is thought that they were the first Bantu-people in Namibia. The Herero and Owambo people come to Namibia in the 16th century. It was not until the second half of the 18th century that the Nama and the Kavango arrived.

Pre colonial period

The harsh and unyielding nature of Namibia’s climate prevented early European colonisation. However, at the end of the fifteenth century its isolation from the world began to crumble. Bartholomeus Diaz, the Portuguese explorer was the first European settler at Lüderitz. The exploration of the inland country was made impossible by the extreme conditions of the Namib Desert, which run across the whole length of the Namibian coast. In 1795, the United Kingdom established itself along the coast to exercise control of the rich fishing resources that were available. At the beginning of the 19th century the missionaries began to arrive, firstly from the United Kingdom and then later from Germany.

Colonial period until World War I

In 1878 Namibia was carved up by colonialists with little regard or respect for the original inhabitants. The United Kingdom annexed a small enclave around the port of Walvis Bay while Germany took control of the rest of the country. The Germans quickly set about distributing parts of the country to fellow colonists, irrespective of the needs of the Namibians. In 1904 the Nama and Herero tribes rose against the occupation, but were swiftly crushed by German troops.

World War I

At the beginning of World War l, Namibia was known as South West Africa, but in 1915, the Germans were expelled from the country. An interim South African administration was set up and in 1920, the League of Nations granted mandate over South West Africa to South Africa. South Africa controlled the area for a period of seventy years, and developed the economy and rural infrastructure during this time. Unfortunately the South African administration also introduced apartheid, and racial separation. The area was treated more and more as an extra province of South Africa, causing long-term dispute between the South African government and the United Nations. In 1966, the United Nations unanimously voted to end South African’s control over South West Africa, but it took another 24 years before South West Africa became a free state, and that was only because of the release of Nelson Mandela.

1960 - 1990

Namibians did not take the forced occupation of their land lying down and from the mid sixties a small scale guerrilla took place against the South-African army. Their efforts were focused on the Northern part of Owamboland, along the Angolan border. Finally, in 1990, an agreement was reached resulting in Namibia’s independence. Namibia held its first free elections, and Sam Nujoma became the first president.

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