Currently viewing country profile for Namibia
Namibia, a large and sparsely populated country on Africa's south-west coast, has enjoyed stability since gaining independence in 1990 after a long struggle against rule by South Africa.
Germany took control of the area which it called South West Africa in the late 1800s. The discovery of diamonds in 1908 prompted an influx of Europeans. South Africa seized it during World War I and administered it under a League of Nations mandate.
Germany has apologised to Namibia for the colonial-era killings of thousands of members of the Herero ethnic group; their descendants have asked Berlin for financial compensation.
Namibians achieved independence in 1990 after a bush war of almost 25 years. Inter-racial reconciliation encouraged the country's white people to remain and they still play a major role in farming and other economic sectors.
In recent years supporters of land reform have become more vocal. The expropriation of white-owned farms began in 2005 and the government says it aims to resettle many thousands of landless citizens.
Like its neighbours, Namibia's wellbeing is being threatened by the HIV/Aids epidemic, which is estimated to affect 25% of Namibians. Mr Nujoma made the fight against the disease a national priority.
In the late 1990s secessionist troubles in the Caprivi Strip, in eastern Namibia, prompted thousands to flee to Botswana. In 2002 the government declared that the area was safe for tourists.
Deserts occupy much of the country; their dunes take on shapes and colours according to the elements. The country also boasts game-rich grasslands and a semi-arid Central Plateau, large tracts of which are given over to livestock farming.
- Full name: The Republic of Namibia
- Population: 2.2 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Windhoek
- Area: 824,292 sq km (318,261 sq miles)
- Major languages: English (official), Afrikaans, German, Oshivambo, Herero, Nama
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 62 years (men), 63 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Namibian dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Diamonds, copper, gold, zinc, lead, uranium, livestock
- GNI per capita: US $4,290 (World Bank, 2009)
- Internet domain: .na
- International dialling code: +264
President: Hifikepunye Pohamba
Hifikepunye Pohamba, a founding member of the rebel movement which fought for his country's independence, won presidential elections in 2004 and again in November 2009.
Though once viewed as a stooge for Namibia's liberation leader Sam Nujoma, President Pohamba has slowly cemented his own authority and built a reputation as a soft-spoken consensus builder.
When Pohamba first ran for president in 2004, Mr Nujoma was still seen as the power behind the throne, with a firm grip over the ruling South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO).
But Mr Nujoma has since officially retired from politics, with Pohamba taking the helm of SWAPO, the former liberation movement that fought a decades-long campaign against apartheid South Africa until independence in 1990.
In the 2009 polls, African observer missions declared the exercise transparent, peaceful and fair. Local observers and opposition parties criticised delays in vote counting and releasing results, and alleged voting and counting irregularities.
Born in 1935, Hifikepunye Pohamba went into exile in the 1960s and later studied in the Soviet Union.
He was independent Namibia's first home minister and then held the fisheries and land portfolio before being elected president in 2004.
The president, who shares executive power with the cabinet, is limited to two five-year terms.
Namibia is one of the more media-friendly countries in Africa. The constitution provides for press freedom and on the whole this is respected by the government.
Media rights body Reporters Without Borders says there is "no major obstacle to the circulation of news".
Broadcasters and the private press give coverage to the opposition, including views critical of the government.
There are around 20 private and community radio stations. BBC World, CNN and South African and international TV channels are available via cable and satellite. Radio France Internationale broadcasts on FM in the capital.
There were some 100,000 internet users by March 2008 (ITU figure) - around 5% of the population.
- The Namibian - private, English and Oshiwambo-language daily
- Namibia Economist - daily
- Die Republikein - Afrikaans daily
- New Era - state-owned daily
- Namibian Sun - private, weekly
- Windhoek Observer - private, weekly
- Allgemeine Zeitung - German-language daily published in Windhoek
- Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) - national state broadcaster
- Desert TV - private station in Windhoek
- Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) - state-run
- Radio Kudu - private, music-based network
- Radio Wave - private, music network
- Radio Energy - private, music station
- Radio 99 - private, music-based network
- Katutura Community Radio (KCR) - Windhoek, rebroadcasts some BBC World Service programmes
- Channel 7 - private religious station in Windhoek
A chronology of key events:
1488 - Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias visits.
1886-90 - Present international boundaries established by German treaties with Portugal and Britain. Germany annexes the territory as South West Africa.
1892-1905 - Suppression of uprisings by Herero and Namas. Possibly 60,000, or 80% of the Herero population, are killed, leaving some 15,000 starving refugees.
South African occupation
1915 - South Africa takes over territory during First World War.
1920 - League of Nations grants South Africa mandate to govern South West Africa (SWA).
1946 - United Nations refuses to allow South Africa to annex South West Africa. South Africa refuses to place SWA under UN trusteeship.
1958 - Herman Toivo Ya Toivo and others create the opposition Ovamboland People's Congress, which becomes the South West Africa People's Organisation (Swapo) in 1960.
1961 - UN General Assembly demands South Africa terminate the mandate and sets SWA's independence as an objective.
1966 - Swapo launches armed struggle against South African occupation.
1968 - South West Africa officially renamed Namibia by UN General Assembly.
1972 - UN General Assembly recognises Swapo as "sole legitimate representative" of Namibia's people.
1988 - South Africa agrees to Namibian independence in exchange for removal of Cuban troops from Angola.
1989 - UN-supervised elections for a Namibian Constituent Assembly. Swapo wins.
1990 March - Namibia becomes independent, with Sam Nujoma as first president.
1994 - South African exclave of Walvis Bay turned over to Namibia.
1994 - Nujoma and Swapo re-elected.
1998 - Hundreds of residents of the Caprivi Strip flee to Botswana, alleging persecution by the Namibian government.
1998 August - Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe send troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to support President Laurent Kabila against rebels.
1999 August - Emergency declared in Caprivi Strip following series of attacks by separatists.
1999 December - Nujoma wins third presidential term.
1999 December - World Court rules in favour of Botswana in territorial dispute with Namibia over the tiny Chobe River island of Sedudu - known as Kasikili by Namibians.
2001 November - President Nujoma says he will not stand for a fourth term when his presidency expires in 2004.
2002 August - New prime minister, Theo-Ben Gurirab, says land reform is a priority. President Nujoma says white farmers must embrace the reform programme.
2003 November - Union representing black farmworkers calls off plans to invade 15 white-owned farms after reaching agreement with white farmers' group. Government says illegal land occupations will not be allowed.
2004 May - Road bridge across Zambezi river between Namibia, Zambia opens amid hopes for boost to regional trade.
2004 August - Germany offers formal apology for colonial-era killings of tens of thousands of ethnic Hereros, but rules out compensation for victims' descendants.
2004 November - Hifikepunye Pohamba, President Nujoma's nominee, wins presidential elections. He is inaugurated in March 2005.
2005 September - Government begins the expropriation of white-owned farms as part of a land-reform programme.
2005 November - Two mass graves are found near a former South African military base in the north. They are thought to date back to the apartheid-era independence struggle.
2006 June - National anti-polio vaccination campaign is launched following the death of at least 12 people from the disease.
2007 February - Chinese President Hu Jintao visits, signs aid and economic co-operation agreements.
2007 July - Controversy as a local rights group asks the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate ex-president Sam Nujoma over the death of thousands during the independence struggle.
2007 August - Ten men are found guilty of treason for leading a secessionist rebellion in the Caprivi region and are given long prison terms.
2009 November - Presidential and parliamentary polls. President Pohamba and his ruling Swapo party re-elected.
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