NAMA-HERERO REBELLION (1904-1907)

This  rebellion  took place in South West  of Africa  in the present  day Namibia.  It was a colonial  reaction  against the  German  rule in the area. As the name  suggests,  it was the

, Nama and Herero tribes that led the rebellion. Otherwise this area was mainly inhabited by three groups namely Ovambo,  Herero and Nama.

The first two groups are Bantu  who were involved in mixed farming with cattle as a major component  of the economy. The Nama,  on the other hand, were the Hotentos  who were herdsmen  keeping  mainly cattle  and  sheep.  It's clear therefore  that these  groups  valued land very much for cultivation and pasture.

The migration of the Bantu (Ovambo  and the Herero) into the region had began an era of conflict between  them (Bantu) and the Nama. These conflicts continued  up to the time of the coming of Europeans who exploited  this division to their advantage.  The whites  were welcomed by the Herero who wanted support against Nama.

German  missionaries  were threatened  by conflicts  of the above two groups  and  in 1884

Germany   declared   a  protectorate   over  Namibia   and  this  was  followed   by  effective occupation.  Between  1884 and  1904 the German  government  established  a settler  policy which   affected  the  Nama  and  their  former  collaborators   the  Herero.  Causes   for  the rebellion accumulated until they led to the 1904 Nama Herero rebellion.

Causes  of the rebellion.

I.      Violation of the l894 and 1890 treaties:

Following the first Nama-Herero  resistance  of 1884 and the defeat of African side, treaties of submission  had been signed.  In  1894 chief  Witboou  of the Nama  had  signed  such  a treaty  with  the  Germans  and  had  even  proceded  to work  hand  in hand  with  them  in domination  of the  fellow Africans  in the neighbourhood.  The  Herero  had  continued  to challenge  the Germans  until  the death  of their ruler  Samuel  Maherero.  The Herero  also entered into a treaty and collaborated with the Germans as the Nama bad done.

By  1904 the coming  of a German  imperial  commissioner  bad  started attacking  societies which  refused  to sign a protection   treaty  with  the  Germans.  And  on top  of that  those societies  which  signed  were  being  mistreated  with  exploitative   colonial  policies.  It  is therefore   not  surprising  that  the  Africans   returned  to  the  state  of war  that  they  had abandoned a few years back.

2.      Disrespect of African traditional institutions:

The  Nama  and  Herero  detested   German  administration   that  ignored   their  traditional authority. The traditional chiefs were ignored in policy making which affected their people. The new rulers were considered  illegitimate  and hence the demand  for the restoration  of traditional power and independence. Although traditional rulers had been undermined, they still  had a lot of influence  among their  people.  This is why  it became  easy  for them  to organise the war.

3.      Colonial exploitation:

To make colonies became viable  for Germans,  they had to oppress Africans just  as they

found, Portugal,  France and Britain doing. Thus, taxation,  forced labour, displacement  of populations  and employment  of Africans on negligible  pay became  open. Anybody  who protested against this nee-slavery  was imprisoned, flogged and given other forms of brutal punishments.  In reaction,  the Nama-Herero  had  revolted  in the  1890s, the Germans  had promised  to reform.  By  1904 it was clear that there  was' to be no change  which  forced Africans to rise into a fresh revolt.

4.      Land alienation:

Germans   had  converted   Namibia   into  a  settler   colony.   The  settlers   displaced   large populations  from  the most  fertile  land that  they  wanted  for the  purposes  of plantation agriculture. Among the Herero, land was gazzeted (fenced) up by the railway companies. The Herero cattle keepers found themselves without land and so resorted  to violence  as a means of regaining their land. Similarly, the Nama had had their land alienated by German settlers and the colonial  government  itself. So when Herero rose up, it was quickly joined up by the Nama.

5.     Loss of cattle:

Connected  to loss  of land  was loss  of cattle  by  both  the Nama  and  Herero.  First,  the

Germans started a deliberate policy of forcing Africans to reduce their cattle population.

-        Secondly even those who had remained  with their cattle but whose  land was taken away were forced to dispose them of as they no longer had pasture.

-   Thirdly  the  rinderpest   epidemic  of  1897  had  hit  especially   the  Herero. The  colonial

government did nothing to help these people out of these problems

-   Some of their cattle were taken away by force to clear the long unpaid debts.

6.        Debt policy:

Germans entered  into commercial  dealings  with the Africans.  As these transactions  were almost always  unfair,  this made Africans  not to make profits.  Eventually  most  of them would end up being indebted to Germans  and were forcefully made to pay. On top of this, Germans  would  lend money to Africans  at a high interest  rate and Africans  would  find themselves  in a debt trap.  Sometimes they could give Afncans  credit facilities  at higber prices.

In 1903 credit ordinance  was passed which gave creditors one year to collect debts after which the debts would be cancelled. The same law allowed Germans to do what they could to get their money back in 1 year. With this protection,  the Germansgrabbed their cattle, land and other  property  and sold them  to realise  money. This resulted  into chaos hence beginning of the war.

7.      The disarmament policy:
Following the 1894 resistance, the Germans had remained suspicious of the Nama who had staged  a more  disastrous  resistance  than the Herero  and were  constantly  a challenge  to Germans. German settlers requested the colonial government to disarm Nama and disperse them to avoid another resistance.

By  190,4 when the Hereto  revolt began,  the plan to disarm  the, Nama became  more sound that forced the Nama to join the Herero into a rebellion against Germans.

8.        The role of able leadership:    .
The Nama-Herero   leadershippersonalities      organised  the  people  into  a rebellion  against
Germans. They organised the masses  against tyrannical  and exploitative  German rule.

Samuel  Maherero  chief  of the  Herero  had  earlier  signed  for  peace  with  the  Germans. Similarly Hendrik Witbooi the chief of Nama took serious measures  to wage a war against the  Germans.   E.g.,  he  approached   his  neighbours   like  Chief   Hermann   Van  Myk  of Rehobath for an alliance against Germans

Even after the death of Witbooi,  other leaders emerged to replace  him. After he was killed, for  example,  a half  Nama-Herero   leader  Morenga  replaced   him.  Morenga   was  in tum replaced by Simon Cooper an educated Nama nationalist.

9.      The Bandle swat expedition:
This expedition  coincided with the plans of Herero to rise. All German  military  units were withdrawn  from the Herero  land and this left them free of German  military  presence  that encouraged them to rebel in 1904.

10.    The Nama rising was inspired by the African Traditional Religion:
Their  chief Witbooi  who was also their religious  head encouraged  his people  to rebel  and promised  them victory and immeasurable  benefits.

COURSE OF THE REBELLION.
The uprising  started in 1904 by the Herero  people under their  paramount  Chief Maherero. The white  settlers  were  given  a surprise  attack by a force  of about  7000 men. Before  the Germans  could organise  to defend themselves,  over one hundred  settlers  and soldiers  had been killed. The Herero were not hostile to all Eurpeans.  They just wanted the Germans.

The  railway   line  from  Swakopmund   to  Windhoeklock   was  cut  in  several   pieces   and
telegraph  lines were broken.  German  settlements  and garrisons  were  besieged  until  1904 when German re-inforcements  were sent to rescue them.

The Germans  under Lentwein  and Commander  General  Von Trotha began  an offensive  in June 1904. The Herero, young and old, armed or unarmed, with or without cattle were short as Trotha waged a war of extermination,  The Herero were driven  into the desert where they starved to death.        

By December  1905 the Herero  rebellion  had been brought  down but it was about the same time  that  the Nama  under  Witbooi  rose  up against  the  Germans.  The  Nama  were  more skilled  at guerilla  warfare  than the Herero  and s9 their rising  lasted  longer.  Witbooi  was killed  in October  1906 and the leadership  taken over by Morenga  who  also died in 1907. His  successor  chief  Simon  Cooper  maintained   the Nama  resistance   until  1907 when  he
accepted to stay away from Namibia in return' for a big Bribe .

EFFECTS OF tHE  REBELLION.
1.    The  first encounter between Germans and the Nama-Herero people  amounted to a population  disaster. The Herero and the Nama were killed in thousands. By December 1905
only  16,000 Herero were alive out of original population of 70,000. The Nama also suffered almost as badly as the Herero because nearly half of them died in the rebellion, for example, only 9,800 Nama were alive in 1911 compared with 20,000 in 1892.

2.      Forced labour increased:
After the Germans victory, they dictated a labour policy to Africans. New labour laws that
empowered Germans to exploit the Herero and the Nama more brutally than before came into force. At least 25,000 Herero got paid jobs on European  farms however cheaply these jobs could be paid.

3.     Nama and Herero lost land that they were trying to gain and even more. After the war these  .
Germans enacted policies through which the Africans-lost their land. The Namaqualand, Native policies required that all land be given to Germans. Herero country was declared a
Germany  colony. People who remained on the land did ~  on the courtesy of Germans. The formerly  landed people were converted into impoverished  labourer and squatters.

4.    Colonialism became more entrenched in Herero country and Nama land. The loss of independence  was also confirmed.  Africans were now ruled as defeated people. In fact the victory of the Germans over the Nama and the Herero rebellion was through (total) such that unlike the Maji-Maji,  the Germans felt no need to soften their administration.  It was as if Africans in Namibia would never rise again.

5.    Thousands  of African women and children who survived the war were put in concentration camps and herded by German government.  Most of them died of sunny desert climates and the sour effects of forced labour.

6.    The Nama and Herero were pushed out of their fertile land to the drier areas of Kalahari where thousands starved to death. Many others who survived the German genocide crossed to Bechwanaland (Botswana)  where they lfid homeless life as wanderers. Other remnants of the Herero were forbidden to keep cattle. All these increased their miseries and poverty.

7.     Africans learnt a number oflessons:
The effect ofNama-Herero defeat demonstrated  the useless of armed resistance  against the superior imperial forces. The rebellion was a disaster to both the Herero and the Nama and the lesson was loudly taught.

8.     Increase of settlers population:
Germans doubled in number after this rebellion as their psesence was made stronger and
confident.  Their  numbers  grew  from  4,600  in  1905 to  15,000 in  1913. German administration  became more secure as the uprising was dealt with a knock down force

9.    It was  the  age  of scramble  and partition   of Africa.  Therefore  Europeans   in general  and Germans  in particular  were  determined  not  only  to acquire  but  also  retain  their  African spheres of influence at whatever cost.

10.        African  communities,   more  so in Namibia,  were  characterised  by  low  levels  of political development.  Most of the societies which  resisted were non-centralised   States. Their status was far from that kingdom namely  Ovambo,  the Herero  and the Nama.  Unfortunately   such societies were resisting the German that had just replaced France in Europe  in 1870 as world land power.