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Namibia entered its third year of nationhood on Saturday facing drought and the need for development but with its hopes still high, President Sam Nujoma said.

Nujoma, the former rebel leader who became president at independence on March 21, 1990, said the nation had international support in its efforts to make "the Namibia that our children inherit . . . a far better place than what we have inherited."Formerly known as South-West Africa, Namibia gained independence from South Africa following a 23-year bush war led by Nujoma's South-West Africa People's Organization.

The rebels won elections supervised by the United Nations prior to independence and formed the first government, which remains in power.

But the decades of South African rule left the black majority uneducated and impoverished. Among the population of 1.5 million, literacy is 40 percent. Most wealth is held by the white minority, a mere 6 percent of the population, while the unemployment rate is 30 percent to 40 percent.

Nujoma said the severe drought in southern Africa has hurt the agriculture industry, forcing cattle farmers to reduce their stock to preserve grazing and showing the need to develop irrigation systems.

"We must develop systems that free us from the whims of nature," he said in a statement.

He also said prudent planning would prevent any serious hunger problems caused by the drought.

Production in the fisheries sector grew in the past year due to vigilant patrolling of Namibian waters for illegal foreign fishing vessels, Nujoma said.

But low prices for some metals hurt the mining sector, he said.