This Day in Black History: March 21, 1990

Namibia declared its independence from South Africa.

Posted: 03/18/2013 03:41 PM EDT
Namibia Independence

On March 21, 1990, the Southern African nation of Namibia declared its independence from South Africa.

White-ruled South Africa claimed possession of the territory now known as Namibia in 1920, after occupying the land, beginning in 1915, during World War I. Before South Africa entered, Namibia was known as the German colony of South-West Africa.

In 1966, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), the military wing of the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), began launching guerrilla attacks on South African forces. SWAPO eventually established military bases in neighboring Angola after the country gained its independence in 1975 and continued to launch attacks from there, while garnering international support for the independence movement.

South Africa’s intense fight to hold onto Namibia stemmed from a desire to stop the spread of Africa’s all-Black post-colonial governments because the country’s government feared the rise of these nations would threaten their system of apartheid.

In 1977, a group of western nations called the Western Contact Group (WCG) (including Canada, France, West Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States) joined the United Nations in calling for the withdrawal of South Africa from Namibian territory.

After several rounds of tense negotiations, South Africa agreed to give up Namibia in 1988. Elections were held the following year and SWAPO candidate Sam Nujoma was elected the nation’s first president.

On March 20, 1990, Namibia held its official independence ceremony and was recognized as a sovereign nation.

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(Photo: JN/GB/TB/Reuters)

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