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.