by By Guy Lamb Researcher, Centre for Conflict Resolution  October 1999

This paper provides a historical analysis of civil supremacy of the military in Namibia.
It shows that civil supremacy of the military in Namibia is amorphous in nature and involves a set of fluid relationships, a perpetual contest between the strengths of civilian political institutions and political strengths of the armed forces. Civil supremacy is a phenomenon that evolves and devolves over time.
This paper shows that the Constitutional and professional mechanisms of civil supremacy that emerged during the eras of German and South African colonial rule laid the foundation for the strong tradition of civil supremacy of the military in Namibia today. The South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO)'s liberation experience, and in particular the mechanisms of civilian control that were instituted as a result of the tensions between the armed wing and the political leadership, strengthened this tradition of civil supremacy. In addition, this Namibian case study reinforces the notion that civil supremacy is not unique to any particular form of government. It is a common concern for democracies, insurgent movements, and authoritarian regimes alike.
One of the fundamental and enduring concerns within the literature on civil-military relations is that of securing and maintaining civil supremacy of the military. In short, civil supremacy is based on a set of ideas, institutions and behaviours, which limit the potential for military intervention in political affairs and provide a system that endows civilian officials with the authority, and mechanisms to exercise supremacy in military affairs. This concern with civil supremacy has become more pronounced in the past decade with the triumph of democracy on a global scale, the resolution of many of the cold war related conflicts and the preoccupation with demilitarisation, peace-building and sustainable development.
Much has been written about the mechanisms and techniques of civil supremacy, however, very little research has been conducted on how it emerges and evolves, and in particular the linkages that exist between past and present experiences of civil-military relations. In addition, there is a common misperception, despite significant research to the contrary, that civil supremacy is synonymous with democracy. By undertaking a case study analysis of Namibia, one of Africa's fledgling democracies, an attempt will be made to achieve a better understanding of the phenomenon of civil supremacy.
This article consists of four sections. In the first section a general analysis of civil supremacy, including a brief review of the literature is provided. Section 2 assesses contemporary civil military relations in Namibia. Section 3 considers the potential impact that previous patterns of civil supremacy of the military had on the current state of affairs in Namibia. Section 4 provides some conclusions.

1.1) Civil Supremacy: The Concept

Civil supremacy of the armed forces consists of three component parts:
A clear separation between civilian and military powers and responsibilities.
The accountability of the armed forces to civilian authority/government.
The practice of transparency in the conduct of defence and security matters [Edmonds,1988:70-92; Welch,1987:9-14; Danopoulos,1992:3].
Civil supremacy is a matter of degree. A continuum of relationships exists between the power of the armed forces and the power of civilian institutions. Schematically this continuum can be illustrated as follows (adaptation of Welch's [1976:3] continuum):

When the armed forces question the legitimacy and judgement of civilian authorities and insist on direct participation in the political decision-making process then the principle of civilian supremacy is violated. The result is a mixed system of civilian-military government where political decisions are made by a combination of civilian and military leaders [Danopoulos,1992:3; Welch,1976:4]. When military officers step in and occupy the top governmental posts and civilian officials are relegated to minor roles, military supremacy or praetorianism exists. A military regime is a form of government in which executive power rests within a military junta using the army as its main power base [Danopoulos,1992:3]. It is considered undesirable because it is brought about and maintained through the exercise of coercive power.

1.2) Review of the Literature

In general, the literature on civil supremacy is preoccupied with the mechanics of controlling the armed forces, such as legislative oversight and military professionalism. Detailed case study analyses of the factors and processes that contribute to the maintenance of civil supremacy (or the lack thereof) over extended periods of time are in short supply. Edited volumes by Claude Welch [1976] (1) and Constantine Danopoulos [1992] (2) seem to be the exception to the rule. This paper seeks to make a modest contribution to this gap in the literature by undertaking an historical case study analysis of civil supremacy of the military in Namibia.


2.1) Historical Overview

Namibia is, according to its Constitution, a sovereign, secular, democratic and unitary state founded upon the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice for all. Namibia's president is the executive and is elected by the voters. Legislative authority is vested in the National Assembly, a body comprised of 72 elected members and up to 6 appointed representatives. The National Council, made up of 2 representatives of each of Namibia's 13 regional councils, acts as an advisory body.
Prior to independence Namibia was subjected to successive waves of foreign intervention, including Oorlam (3) (from the late 1700s), German (from the late 1800s) and South African (from 1915 up until the late 1980s). There was ad hoc resistance to foreign rule and domination, as well as some collaboration by the indigenous population, but it was only by the mid-1900s that organised resistance against colonial occupation emerged. At the forefront of the resistance movement was the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO), which waged a political, diplomatic and military struggle against the South African regime for almost three decades. In 1988, as part of the Angolan peace settlement, South Africa agreed to withdraw from Namibia, which then led to Namibia's independence in March 1990.
Since independence, Namibia's fragile democratic dispensation has matured into a stable representative system of government. Despite some amendments, Namibia's liberal Constitution still stands unviolated as the supreme law of the land. However, in recent years, there have been a number of severe criticisms levelled at the SWAPO-led government. It has been accused of failing to deliver the much needed socio-economic reforms and of tolerating an arrogation of power by the newly emergent political elite [Africa Confidential 4/8/95]. Certain critics have even made claims that Namibia is "increasingly displaying patterns that have characterised autocratic, neo-colonial states elsewhere on the continent" and in the face of a weak political opposition is drifting towards a "de facto one party state" [Tapscott,1997:3]. Recently, opposition politics is undergoing a major revival with the formation of a new political party called the Congress of Democrats (COD). By all accounts, the COD is gaining popularity by the day and could possibly provide a serious challenge to the SWAPO hegemony in the December 1999 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

2.2) Democratic Civil-Military Relations: The Namibian Experience

Civil supremacy of the armed forces in a democracy embraces the idea that the will of the people is paramount. The military is subordinate and accountable to civilian officials who are elected by the people. This ensures that the state in question is in a position to base its values, institutions, and practices on popular will rather than on the choices of military leaders, whose outlook by definition focuses on the need for internal order and external security [Kohn,1997:141]. In a democracy, military leaders obey the government as they accept the basic national and political goals of a democracy and because it is their duty and profession to fight [Janowitz,1964:79].
To date there have been no coup d'etats or attempted coup d'etats in Namibia. Civil supremacy is upheld through various mechanisms and techniques, such as legislative oversight, budgetary control of defence expenditure, a civilian dominated Ministry of Defence, and the maintenance of a small professional military.
Traditionally, civil supremacy in a democracy is enforced through the constitutional, legislative and budgetary mechanisms, as well as by means of military professionalism. These issues are discussed below.

2.2.1) Constitutional, Legislative and Budgetary Issues

Two of the most effective ways of ensuring civil supremacy in a democracy is through legislation, namely the Constitution and/or the defence act (4) and the budget.
In a typical democracy, the authority to declare war is vested with the legislature. The legislature also possesses oversight and investigative powers, which includes the enactment of legislation to prevent excessive secrecy [Stepan,1988:133]. With respect to the budget, the legislature determines the military's budget allocation and procurement expenditure. In addition, a civilian dominated ministry or department of defence exists. This is an entity instilled with civilian expertise in defence matters and exercises political authority over the armed forces [Nathan,1994:65]. It assists the minister of defence to prepare the defence budget and acts as a formulator and interpreter of defence policy for the armed forces.
In Namibia, the National Assembly has the power to approve budgets. Cabinet ministers are accountable to both the President and parliament [Republic of Namibia, 1989, Articles 63 (Sub-Article 2A), 41]. The National Council, composed of representatives from regional councils throughout the country, has the power to review bills passed by the National Assembly and has certain investigative powers [Republic of Namibia, 1989, Article 59 (Sub-Article 3)].
However, in Namibia, there is a critical deviation from the typical democratic model. Section 29 of the Defence Amendment Act (No. 114 of 1990) stipulates the circumstances (5) in which members of the NDF can be deployed on foreign soil, but the Constitution is silent as to who has the authority to make such a decision. In reality this means that the President has the discretion to declare war and send soldiers to another country without consulting the legislature prior to the decision. From a democratic perspective this is a cause for concern as war results in military expansion, growth in the power and influence of government and increased intrusions into the lives of citizens - including more taxes and limits on individual freedoms [Kohn,1997:149]. As a consequence of this Constitutional provision, President Nujoma circumvented the National Assembly when he made the decision to deploy troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Namibian, 27/08/98). In response to protests from the media, opposition MPs and members of the public that his decision was unconstitutional, President Nujoma argued that it was in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution's clauses on protecting the Republic, ensuring the safety of Namibian citizens and defending the country's borders [Namibian, 24/09/98].
The Ministry of Defence, headed by a civilian member of Cabinet, consists of four directorates: Operations, Finance, Personnel and Logistics. Each directorate consists of a number of divisions. The Minister of Defence is supported by a Deputy Minister, a Permanent Secretary and a Deputy Permanent Secretary. Due to financial considerations, the MoD fulfils the dual role of Department of Defence (DoD) and the Headquarters of the Defence Force, co-locating the Chief of the Defence Force with the seat of civil supremacy, namely the Minister of Defence in the same complex. According to the Statement of Defence Policy [1993:4],
The principal advantage of this design is that it facilitates clear political control of higher direction and management of defence.
However, in reality this arrangement may hinder civil supremacy as it could lead to excessive military influence in the affairs of the civilian-oriented DoD.

2.2.2) Military Professionalism: Namibian Defence Force

The greater the sphere of responsibilities that are apportioned to the armed forces, the greater the possibility of active military involvement in politics. Conversely, the more limited their responsibilities, the greater the potential for their subordination to civilian control [Welch,1976:32]. Therefore, a clear distinction should exist between the duties of the armed forces and civilian government.
"Professionalising" the military, has the effect, according to Huntington [1957:84], of improving civilian control as such a process renders the armed forces "politically sterile and neutral". This is a process whereby the professional characteristics of the armed forces are encouraged through enhancing the military's specialisation and expertise in the management of violence, increasing the educational opportunities available to the officer corps, and boosting the corporate nature of the military.
The Namibian Defence Force (NDF) was established by the Defence Amendment Act (Act 20 of 1990) which was in amendment to the South African Defence Act (Act 44 of 1957). The Act is complemented by a Military Discipline Code, which provides the practical framework for the administration of the armed forces. According to the Statement on Defence Policy (1993), the NDF's role is as follows: to ensure the maintenance of sovereignty and territorial integrity; to provide assistance to the civil authorities and to the civil community when required; to undertake ceremonial functions and to assist the process of reconciliation.
Over the past eight years the strength of the NDF has varied between 5 000 and 9 000 personnel. An internal defence review and restructuring programme envisages an optimal defence force as being comprised of 10 000 personnel. The NDF aspires to be a highly mobile, robust, professional force that can be deployed fairly rapidly [Shiweda,1999].
The NDF is lightly equipped and its structure is currently based on four Infantry Battalions under the central control of an Army Head Quarters, supported by a Logistic Support Battalion and supplied via a Composite Depot. Recently, the Namibian Air wing was commissioned. It consists of two squadrons: one fixed wing and one helicopter squadron. A maritime wing has been created, but is more of a coastguard than a navy as it falls under the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. This maritime wing is staffed by 100 personnel and has three patrol craft [IISS,1998:258].
The NDF has been involved in three military encounters. First, the NDF had a brief confrontation with the Botswana Defence Force over the Kasikili (Sidudu) Island in the Linyanti (Chobe) River in 1995. Second, the NDF was deployed in conjunction with the Angolan and Zimbabwean armed forces in support of Laurent Kabila's regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July 1998. Third, the NDF, together with the Namibian Police (NAMPOL) and the newly-formed Special Field Force (SFF) were deployed in the Caprivi strip to quell two secessionist uprisings (November 1998 and August 1999) by a small insurgent force known as the Caprivi Liberation Movement (CLM). The DRC and Caprivi missions are considered below.
The NDF envisaged the DRC campaign to be a short to medium term operation comprised of two phases. The objective of phase one was to protect the Kabila government in Kinshasa and prevent it from being overthrown by rebel forces, as well as to secure the western economic corridor, Kinshasa's vital link to the Atlantic Ocean [Shiweda,1999]. The NDF in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) and other allies successfully completed phase one within in a few weeks [Namibian, 1/4/99]. Phase two's objective was to contain the rebel forces in the eastern region of the DRC and prevent them capturing towns and other strategic areas [Shiweda,1999]. Phase two was less successful than phase one as from November 1998 the allied forces in support of the Kabila regime sustained heavy casualties and was unable to secure any significant victories against the Ugandan and Rwandan backed rebels. However, it appears as thought the Kabila alliance did not suffer any major defeats either [Internal Crisis Group,1999].
By late-March 1999, President Nujoma readily admitted that this war could not be won militarily, and favoured a negotiated settlement instead [Namibian, 31/3/99]. By September, after several months of intensive diplomatic bargaining, a cease-fire agreement was eventually signed by most of the important parties. This cease-fire agreement stipulates that all foreign troops, including the approximately 2 000 NDF soldiers, must withdraw from DRC territory by February 2000 [DRC Ceasefire Agreement, 7 July 1999]. From the onset of this operation, the NDF did not perceive its deployment in the DRC to be a waste of resources, but rather a challenge, as well as a valuable experience that would enhance and refine their military skill [Shiweda,1999].
Caprivi Rebellions
In October 1998, the NDF with the support of the SFF stumbled onto a small insurgent training camp of the Caprivi Liberation Movement, which was alleged to be in the Mudumu National Park [Namibian, 3/8/99]. Following this discovery, the over-zealous security forces, in their attempts to capture secessionist rebels, caused some 2 500 Caprivi residents, many of them members of the marginalised Kxoe (San) community, to flee into Botswana [Mail & Guardian, 17/11/98]. Amongst the refugees were leaders of the CLM, namely Mishake Muyongo and Mafwe Chief Boniface Mamili. By June 1999 only several hundred refugees were repatriated, while Muyongo and Mamili were granted asylum in Denmark. The remaining refugees still reside in Botswana.
In the early hours of 2 August 1999, the Namibian security forces were caught off-guard when armed insurgents (6) from the CLM attacked the Wanella border post, local NDF bases, a police station, a shopping centre and offices of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation in the Caprivi town of Katima Mulilo. Street battles ensued, but by the afternoon the rebel forces had been repulsed by the Namibian security forces [Namibian, 2/8/99; 28/8/99]. A State of Emergency was declared the next day and remained in place for the next three weeks. During this time the Namibian security forces undertook intensive "mopping up" operations to flush out and capture CLM insurgents. By early September some sense of normality had returned to Katima Mulilo, but the Namibian security forces remain deployed in large numbers in the region.
In both incidents members of the NDF as well as the NAMPOL and the SFF have been implicated in intimidation, assault, torture and even murder of civilians (7).

Other Operations

The NDF has also rendered the following services in support of civil authorities and communities since its inception: mine clearance; repatriation of Namibian nationals from Botswana; controlling of locusts in the Caprivi region; apprehension of trawlers illegally fishing in territorial waters; joint operations with the Namibian Police Force; and fire-fighting services. NDF personnel were also involved in peacekeeping operations, namely in the UN mission to monitor the elections in Cambodia in 1993 [National Planning Commission,1995:486]. In addition, the NDF has participated in regional peacekeeping exercises such as Operation Blue Crane, which was held in South Africa (April 1999).


Much has been written and theorised about how civil supremacy is enforced and maintained in a contemporary context. However, only limited research has been conducted on the influence of previous experiences of civil-military relations, and how they contribute to the evolution of the phenomenon of civil supremacy. This section seeks to determine whether a link exists between past and present experiences of civil supremacy in Namibia.
3.2) Colonialism and Conquest
Namibia's long experience of foreign occupation was characterised by an almost complete absence of political relations of consent, with the coercive exercise of power being the order of the day. However, there were a number of developments during this period that had critical implications for contemporary democratic civil-military relations in Namibia.
First, the Germans introduced constitutional mechanisms of civilian control, That is the colony's budget, including military expenditure had to be approved by the German legislature in Berlin. In addition, the colonial military, the Schutztruppen, resembled a small professional force that was located within the colonial ministry rather than with the German Army High Command, further reinforcing civilian control of the armed forces [Gann,1978:469-471].
Second, the tradition of constitutional and professional civil supremacy persisted under the South African regime. In 1925 a measure of self-government was introduced to Namibia, but for whites only. The South West African Constitution Act No. 42 of 1925 established a Legislative Assembly, which was endowed with very limited law making capacity, however, defence and a number of other critical legislative fields were reserved for the South African Parliament [Soggot,1986:20]. The Defence Act of 1912 granted parliament supreme legislative supremacy in defence matters relating to South Africa's territorial integrity. A civilian Secretariat was created in the Department of Defence which had a financial oversight function [Seegers,1996:20-35]. In addition, the composition of the Union (South African) Defence Force facilitated greater civil supremacy as it was comprised of a small Permanent Force component of professional soldiers and an Active Citizen Force made of conscripted white males.
Third, in the latter part of the South African occupation of Namibia, the military became very active in Northern Namibia, which contributed, along with a number of other factors, to the defence elite gaining considerable power and influence in decision-making and policy output [Grundy,1986:107-113]. However, the principle of civil supremacy of the armed forces was never seriously undermined.
Initially, military operations were confined to the pacification of the regions in Northern Namibia and to suppressing a series of domestic insurrections, with the South African Police being primarily responsible for the maintenance of security within Namibia and the containment of labour unrest. However, in 1972, with the intensification of the armed struggle by the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO), a state of emergency was declared in Ovamboland and the South African Defence Force (SADF) was deployed in larger numbers in the north. By 1975, following Angola's independence, the SADF became the principal security arm of the South African government in Namibia. The SADF's status was further reinforced in 1979 with the creation of the South West African Territorial Force (SWATF), which was an attempt by the South African government to shift more of the military responsibility over to Namibians [Seegers,1996:221]. The SWATF was a conventional force officered by white Namibian conscripts and was comprised of ethnic battalions of black Namibians [Dale,1993:12]. Their functions and modes of operation were very similar to the SADF. By the late-1980s the total personnel component of SWATF was approximately 24 000 [Weaver,1989:95-96].
3.3) The Liberation Struggle Experience
SWAPO, an anti-colonialist resistance movement, was established in 1960. Its origins were in the Namibian labour movement and it had been created out of a labour association called the Ovamboland People's Organisation [Katjavivi,1987:45]. SWAPO's primary strategy was the petitioning and lobbying of international organisations, such as the United Nations, to compel the South African government to withdraw from Namibia and facilitate a process that would lead to independence. Critically, SWAPO was not banned inside Namibia like the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in South Africa. Consequently, a limited civilian political experience, free from military intervention, was sustained. However, as SWAPO's Executive Committee was in exile, most of its operations were directed from outside the country.
In the mid-1960s the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) (8) , SWAPO's armed wing, was created. It was based on the classical Maoist guerrilla model, meaning that PLAN was unconventional in character, with its military objective being attrition. As the military grew in size and influence, tensions emerged between the civilian leadership and the armed wing, the SWAPO Executive, concerned about being usurped by the military, implemented measures of civil supremacy. Party controls, such as the Commissar system (9) and political indoctrination of cadres, were introduced [Shipanga(a),1972:14]. "Geographical" methods of civilian control were also employed, with the armed wing being stationed in isolated camps in Tanzania (later Zambia), and kept in a state of relative inactivity.
The decade preceding Angolan independence (1975) proved to be the most successful time for SWAPO. It was a period that saw a dramatic expansion of SWAPO's military operations, especially in the wake of the transfer of its political and military headquarters from Zambia to Angola. This was followed by an intensification of the armed struggle with PLAN units being deployed in larger numbers deeper into the Namibian interior [Matatu,1976:9-10; Katjavivi,1988:87]. Between 1978 and 1980 PLAN gained the upper hand over the SADF. This was reflected by PLAN's successful campaign of urban sabotage in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Keetmanshoop; and the establishment of "no-go" areas for the SADF in Ovamboland. This led to the armed wing becoming more assertive (10) within SWAPO [Brown,1995:29].
From the early 1980s, with the theatre of war moving into the Angolan interior, PLAN found itself on the retreat. The only means left to SWAPO's armed wing to challenge the South African security forces was through integration with the Peoples Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA), the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)'s armed division [Lamb,1999:118]. This had the effect of "conventionalising" PLAN, with it diverging from classical guerrilla techniques to embracing the more conventional doctrines of civil war [Seegers,1996:230].
In the mid- to late-1980s, in the context of a severe internal civil-military imbalance in favour of PLAN, a major crisis emerged within the ranks of SWAPO. This crisis became known as the "spy drama". In an attempt to restore the civil-military balance, the SWAPO leadership created a security (intelligence) organ with the objective of diluting the political influence of the armed forces. However, this organ, driven by extreme organizational paranoia, gained so much power and influence that it almost brought about SWAPO's demise [Lamb,1999:122-125] (11) .

3.4) The Transition

The late-1980s saw the resolution of the Namibian conflict, which formed part of the Angolan peace deal. Provisions were made for United Nations supervised democratic elections, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, repatriation of refugees and the creation of the Namibian Defence Force.
Like most transitions, the Namibian process encountered a number of obstacles on the road to independence and democratic government. For instance, there was a serious violation of the cease-fire agreement (12) , followed by large-scale intimidation of SWAPO supporters by the South-West African Police (an organ created by the South African government) in the run-up to the elections. In ordinary circumstances these events would have resulted in the scuttling of the peace process and a resumption of armed conflict. However, regional and international conditions were such that the parties' to the conflict, namely the SADF and SWAPO, only realistic option was to pursue a peaceful settlement.
Civil supremacy was entrenched with the advent of democracy, the careful selection of cabinet ministers and the establishment of the NDF. The majority of the defence and security personnel, particularly those who were at the forefront of the "spy drama", were inserted into the defence and security arms of the new Namibian state, where in the short term, they were removed from mainstream policy-making [Saul & Leys,1995:198]. Civil supremacy was further reinforced by the fact the SWAPO did not achieve a two-thirds majority in the first democratic election with opposition parties securing 31 out of the 72 seats in the National Assembly. The existence of a relatively strong opposition meant that the possibility of using the armed forces for political purposes by the ruling party was drastically reduced.


By simply focusing on contemporary civil-military relations in Namibia, one's view of this phenomenon is obscured. Few, if any, significant trends or processes are discernible. Only when one looks over a prolonged period of time, in which past experiences of civil-military relations are considered, is the amorphous nature of civil supremacy revealed. It involves a set of fluid relationships, a perpetual contest between the strengths of civilian political institutions and political strengths of the military. It is a phenomenon that evolves and devolves over time. In this regard two critical conclusions can be made.
First, the Constitutional and professional mechanisms of civil supremacy that emerged during the eras of German and South African colonial rule laid the foundation for the strong tradition of civil supremacy in Namibia today. SWAPO's liberation experience, and in particular the mechanisms of civilian control that were instituted as a result of the tensions between PLAN and the political leadership, strengthened this tradition. Second, this Namibian case study reinforces the notion that civil supremacy is not unique to any particular form of government. It is a common concern for democracies, insurgent movements, and authoritarian regimes alike.
Despite this strong tradition of civil supremacy in Namibia there are a number of issues and developments that have the potential to undermine the democratic dispensation. The President's Constitutional right to declare war, which led to the deployment of troops in the DRC at the expense of the Namibian taxpayer, has provided a precedent for future military ventures in other countries. Already the idea of sending Namibian troops to Angola to support the Dos Santos' government in its military campaign against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) has been mooted. This Constitutional provision could lead to a serious abuse of power in the future, whereby the armed forces and para-military units are used for political purposes, such as in the suppression of popular protest. Added to this, the political opposition's ability to check potential abuses of power by the Executive has diminished due to the dramatic erosion of its support base since independence. SWAPO now has a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, which resulted in a controversial amendment to Article 29 (3) of the Constitution which permits President Nujoma to stand for a third term of office.


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Welch's edited volume includes the following case studies: India, the Philippines, China, Guyana, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Finland and Chile.
Danopoulos' edited volume incorporates studies of Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Guyana, Jamaica, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.
Oorlams were people of Khoi or mixed descent who entered Namibia from the south. They had formerly served as guides, scouts, herders, domestic servants and agricultural labourers for Dutch farmers in the Cape. Oorlams were a militaristic people, with each political community being dominated by a para-military unit known as a commando [Lau,1983:25].
This is an Act of parliament that defines the military's powers, mission, role, organisation and composition.
According to the Defence Amendment Act (No.114 of 1990), members of the NDF may be required to serve outside the borders of Namibia in order to combat or suppress an attack or act of aggression which is directed at Namibia by any armed force or group of persons.
According to testimony by 12 alleged rebels at their bail hearing, nine of them were from the Dukwe refugee camp in eastern Botswana, near Francistown [Namibian, 25/8/99].
During an open meeting with opposition parties, the Prime Minister Hage Geingob, Attorney General Vekuii Rukoro and Minister of Defence Erkki Nghimtinaand, admitted that the NDF had committed certain human rights abuses during the Caprivi operation [Namibian, 19/8/99].
SWAPO's armed wing was originally called the South West African Liberation Army (SWALA).
Traditionally, political commissars act as "watchdogs", approving military plans and other military functions at each level of the military organisation [Colton,1979:3-4].
This assertiveness became apparent in the mid-1970s with the outbreak of a crisis. In response to the SWAPO leadership's perceived lack of political accountability to the SWAPO Executive, military inactivity as well as inadequate food, clothing and weapons supplies, major segments within PLAN rebelled. Civil supremacy was only restored when the SWAPO Executive called in the Zambia military to quash the military rebellion.
This organisation consisted of 250 personnel, who had been trained in the Soviet Union and East Germany. Its primary objective was to identify potential spies, arrest and interrogate them, and detain those suspected of espionage. In a short space of time this security agency, dominated by the armed wing, evolved into an institution of organised terror that embarked on a seemingly irrational witch hunt.
On the 1 April 1989, between 1,500 and 1,800 armed SWAPO insurgents entered Namibia from Angola in direct violation of the ceasefire agreement. The South African security forces engaged the insurgents in open battles over the next 9 days, with the crisis being eventually defused in mid-May. The reason for the SWAPO "invasion" remains, to this day, a point of debate.

The Southern African Centre for Defence Information (SACDI) is a joint project between the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA).

@ A Forgotten War
@ No more heroes
@ What happened to the boys on the border?
@ In conflict

@ Death in the Desert: The Namibian Tragedy Chapter 6
@ Chapter 7
@ Chapter 12
@ Chapter 13
@ Chapter 14
@ Chapter 15
@ Chapter 16
Chapter 18
@ Chapter 19
@ Chapter 20
@ Chapter 21




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