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Namibia is bordered on the north by Angola and Zambia, on the east by Botswana, and on the east and south by South Africa. It is for the most part a portion of the high plateau of southern Africa, with a general elevation of from 3,000 to 4,000 ft.


The San peoples may have inhabited what is now Namibia more than 2,000 years ago. The Bantu-speaking Herero settled there in the 1600s. The Ovambo, the largest ethnic group today, migrated in the 1800s.

In the late 15th century, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to visit Namibia. Formerly called South-West Africa, the territory became a German colony in 1884. Between 1904 and 1908, German troops massacred tens of thousands of Herero, who had revolted against colonial rule. In 1915, during World War I, Namibian territory was taken over by South African forces. In 1921, it became a mandated territory of the League of Nations, under the administration of South Africa.

Upon the dissolution of the League of Nations in 1946, South Africa refused to accept United Nations authority to replace its mandate with a UN trusteeship. A black Marxist separatist group, the South West African People"s Organization (SWAPO), formed in 1960 and began small-scale guerrilla attacks aimed at achieving independence. In 1966, the UN called for South Africa"s withdrawal from the territory, and officially renamed it Namibia in 1968. South Africa refused to obey. Under a 1974 Security Council resolution, South Africa was required to begin the transfer of power or face UN action. Prime Minister Balthazar J. Vorster rejected UN supervision, claiming that his government was prepared to negotiate Namibian independence, but not with SWAPO, which the UN had recognized as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Namibian people.

South Africa handed over limited powers to a new multiracial administration in 1985 (the previous government had enforced South Africa"s apartheid laws). Installation of this government ended South Africa"s direct rule, but it

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