Namibia Defense and Foreign Policy

By | January 11, 2021

Foreign policy and defense

Namibia is a nation in Southern Africa. Its capital city is Windhoek. Namibia has good relations with the outside world. The ties are particularly strong to countries in the region that have similar experience of liberation war. The relationship is extra cordial even to states that supported the freedom struggle, such as Russia, China and Cuba. Namibia has strong ties to South Africa for historical reasons.

namibia military spending and defense budget

Relations with South Africa, the region’s economic giant, have been uncomplicated since the fall of the apartheid regime in 1994. That same year, South Africa handed over control of the port territory of Walvis Bay, which the South Africans had retained as an enclave at Namibia’s independence in 1990. Four years later, in 1997, Namibia’s national debt was written off to South Africa. The countries, on the other hand, have not agreed on the boundary line along the Orange River.

More complicated is the relationship with Germany that ruled Namibia as a colony in 1884-1915, that is, before the area was occupied by South Africa. The Herero and Nama people were subjected to genocide by the Germans who massacred tens of thousands of Herero and Nama as punishment for rebelling against colonial power (see Ancient History). Today, herero and nama are running a campaign to get an official apology from Germany as well as damages (read more in the Calendar).

With Botswana, the relationship was previously somewhat strained due to the unrest in the Zambezi Strip (see Modern History) and a border dispute in the Chobe / Linyanti river, but both conflicts have been resolved. The political ties are not so strong, as Botswana has not gained its independence through armed struggle. In Botswana there is also resistance to Namibian plans to divert water from and possibly build a power plant in the Okavango River, which flows through the Zambezi Strip on its way to Botswana where it culminates in a huge inland delta.

Strong ties to Angola and Zimbabwe

Angola supported Swapo during the freedom struggle, which contributes to close relations. Following the peace agreement in Angola in 2002, it has also been quiet along the border. In the past, border intermezzo existed. The unit army in Angola plundered into Namibia, and the Angolan army sometimes pursued rebels into Namibian soil. In 2003, 20,000 Angolan refugees were able to return home from Namibia, with UN assistance.

The ties are strong even to Zimbabwe. The two countries’ now state-carrying parties and previous liberation movements, Swapo and Zanu-PF, have similar experiences and political background. Namibian “country father” Sam Nujoma and Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe are close friends. Some Swap ministers have expressed their support for the disputed land reform in Zimbabwe 2000–2002. However, the government has maintained that all land transfers in Namibia should be legal.

Namibia is a member of the African Union (AU) and of the regional cooperation organization SADC (Southern African Development Community), which consists of 15 countries in southern Africa. The goal of SADC is to create a common market and mediate conflicts.

Five of the 15 SADC countries are also members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which has its secretariat in Windhoek. There are plans for SADC and two other regional cooperation bodies to form a free trade area that covers southern and eastern Africa, all the way up to Egypt (“from Cape Town to Cairo”). However, it will take some time before such is in place.

Modern defense force

When the SADC in 1998 failed to mediate in the Congo-Kinshasa conflict, Namibia and Zimbabwe and Angola intervened on the side of Congolese President Laurent Kabila. Namibia sent close to 2,000 soldiers and was forced to take extra money from the state budget for the campaign. In 2001, almost the entire Namibian squad was taken home.

One problem after independence in 1990 was to form a national army of Swapo soldiers and members of the colonial defense force formed by South Africa. The integration went unexpectedly well. Among other things, with the support of the British military, a modern defense force was created. Many former Swapo soldiers are also part of the country’s semi-military police force.


Army: 9,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 900 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 3.4 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 8.8 percent (2017)



Germany submits skulls from genocide

Germany returns 20 skulls that come from victims of the genocide of herero and nama in the early 20th century (see Older History). A government official says that a “tragic chapter” in the country’s history has now ended, but many Namibians believe that Germany should be required to pay damages.


Oil barrels found outside Namibia

Mining and Energy Minister Isak Katali confirms earlier information that oil reserves estimated at 11 billion barrels have been found off the coast of Namibia.


The hunt for jobs continues

After the official unemployment rate has risen to more than 50 percent, the government is launching a two-year growth program aimed at creating thousands of new jobs in transport, tourism, construction and agriculture.


Court claims fraud

A Windhoek court ruled that the 2009 election results are valid. At the same time, the Court strongly criticizes Namibia’s electoral commission for lack of organization. The judges also call for a review of the country’s electoral law. The opposition parties who have appealed the result take the case to the Supreme Court.