Facebook Twitter

NAMIBIA IS FREE, BUT NOW WHAT?

SHARE NAMIBIA IS FREE, BUT NOW WHAT?

Celebrations in Namibia, the world's newest nation, are largely over. The real task of running a country that has been under neighboring South African rule for 75 years has just begun.

When all the shouting and hoopla have finally died down, Namibians will begin to realize that there's lots of work ahead - a price they and their leaders must pay for having gained independence.Most countries in Eastern Europe are already learning a similar lesson that freedom, while wonderfully exhilarating, presents a whole new set of problems for which many people often aren't prepared.

The country has been under control of South Africa since it captured the territory of South-West Africa from Germany in 1915. A leftist guerrilla group, the South West Africa Peoples Organization, began launching attacks in 1966, after South Africa rejected a United Nations resolution demanding that it relinquish control of the territory.

An estimated 20,000 people, mostly SWAPO guerrillas, died in the fighting, which ended only about a year ago. Democracy bloomed last November when SWAPO won a decisive victory in United Nations-supervised elections.

SWAPO was strongly committed to socialism while in exile. But since the elections, it has frequently stated that it would work with mining, farming and fishing industries to create jobs and to improve living conditions for the impoverished black majority.

The population (1.3 million in 1981) is predominantly black, divided among seven major ethnic divisions, plus Bushmen, mixed-raced groups and 75,000 whites.

South African aid, coupled with the white-controlled industries, has made Namibia one of the few African countries to reach an annual per capita income of $1,000. But the country's wealth is mainly concentrated in the hands of the whites, who comprise 6 percent of the population.

With South Africa now ending its financial aid, the challenge is for Namibia to help its people become as economically secure as possible. That may prove to be a more formidible job than obtaining independence.