Among the first people to inhabit Namibia were the San Bushmen. Later inhabitants include the Nama and the Damara. The Khoi-Khoi tribe came from the south, gradually displacing the San. The arrival of the Bantu-speaking Ovambo and Herero from the north marked the first tribal structures in Southern African Societies.
The first European visitors were Portuguese mariners seeking a way to the Indies in the late 15th century, but they confined their activities in Namibia to erecting stone crosses at certain points along the coast as navigational guides.
They were followed much later by the English and Germans. In 1878, the United Kingdom annexed Walvis Bay on behalf of Cape Colony, and the area was incorporated into the Cape of Good Hope in 1884. The annexation of the country by Germany in 1884 still accounts for the distinctive German architecture and traditions and the German influence is very much still evident in the country today.
In 1904, the Herero people, who were Bantu-speaking cattle herders, launched a rebellion, but it was brutally put down. Meanwhile, in the south, diamonds had been discovered east of Lüderitz by a South African labourer. The German authorities branded the entire area between Lüderitz and the Orange River a 'forbidden area'.
After Germany's defeat in the World War 1, the League of Nations entrusted the territory to South Africa, and the territory then became known as South West Africa. The mandate to rule was renewed by the United Nations following World War 2, but the UN refused to sanction the outright annexation of the country by South Africa. The South African government nevertheless tightened its grip on the country and imposed apartheid rule until well into the 1980s.
The South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) began it's armed struggle to liberate Namibia in 1966 and in 1971 the International Court of Justice upheld a UN decision, determining that South Africa's occupation of Namibia was illegal. In April 1978 the UN Plan called for the holding of elections in Namibia, under UN supervision and control. However, in November 1978, South Africa, in defiance of the UN, unilaterally held elections in Namibia which were boycotted by SWAPO and other political parties.
South Africa eventually was forced out by a combination of United Nations pressure and guerrilla warfare from SWAPO. The fall of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela from his 25 year incarceration, mirrored the international mood and reaction to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war with Glasnost.
In 1989, elections gave SWAPO a majority of seats in a constituent assembly. The new nation, called Namibia and led by the elected President Sam Nujoma, became independent on 21 March 1990 and Independence Day is annually celebrated on this date. On March 1, 1994, the coastal enclave of Walvis Bay and 12 offshore islands were transferred to Namibia by South Africa. This followed 3 years of negotiations between the governments of Namibia and South Africa and the peaceful resolution of this territorial dispute, which dated back to 1878, was praised by the international community.
Today Namibia is peaceful and economically is largely better off than many other countries of the region because of its productive mining, tourism, farming and fishing industries.