West Germany and Namibia's Path to Independence, 1969-1990


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Namibia’s main liberation movement, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), relied heavily on outside support for its armed struggle against South Africa’s occupation of what it called South West Africa. While East Germany’s solidarity with Namibia’s struggle for national self-determination has received attention, little research has been done on West Germany’s policy towards Namibia, which must be seen against the backdrop of inter-German rivalry. The impact of the wider realities of the Cold War on Namibia’s rocky path to independence leaves ample room for research and new interpretations. In West Germany and Namibia’s Path to Independence, 1969-1990: Foreign Policy and Rivalry with East Germany, Thorsten Kern shows that German division played a vital role in West Germany’s position towards Namibia during the Cold War. West German foreign policy towards Namibia, at the height of the Namibian liberation struggle, is investigated and discussed against the backdrop of rivalry with East Germany. The two states’ deeply diverging policies, characterised in this context by competition for infuence over SWAPO, were strongly affected by the Cold War rivalry between the capitalist West and the communist East. Yet ultimately the dynamics of rapprochement helped to bring about Namibia’s independence.
This book is based upon a doctoral dissertation presented to the University of Cape Town in 2016. Kern conducted research in the National Archives of Namibia and in German archives and his work draws on interviews with contemporary witnesses.



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Published 22 May 2019
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West Germany and Namibia’s Path to Independence, 1969–1990
West Germany and Namibia’s Path to Independence, 1969–1990 Foreign Policy and Rivalry with East Germany
Basel Namibia Studies Series 21
Basler Afrika Bibliographien 2019
©2019 The author ©2019 Basler Afrika Bibliographien
Basler Afrika Bibliographien Namibia Resource Centre & Southern Africa Library Klosterberg 23 PO Box 4001 Basel Switzerland www.baslerafrika.ch
All rights reserved.
Cover image: Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and the President of the South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), Sam Nujoma, during talks on the future of Namibia, the former German colony of German South-West Africa, 23. Photo taken by Peter Popp in Bonn on 23 October 1980. © Keystone
ISBN 978-3-906927-16-9
ISSN 2234-9561
Basel Namibia Studies Series
In 1997,PublishingP. Schlettwein (PSP) launched theBasel Namibia Studies Series. Its pri-mary aim was to lend support to a new generation of research, scholars and readers emerg-ing with the independence of Namibia in 1990. Initially, the book series published crucially important doctoral theses on Namibian his-tory. It soon expanded to include more recent political, anthropological, media and cultural history studies by Namibian scholars. P. Schlettwein Publishing,as an independent publishing house, maintained the series in collaboration with theBasler Afrika BibliographienNamibia Resource Centre and (BAB), Southern Africa Library in Switzerland. All share a commitment to encourage research on Africa in general and southern Africa in particular. Through the incorporation of PSP into theCarl Schlettwein Stiftung,the series, by then a consolidated platform for Namibian Stud-ies and beyond, was integrated into the publishing activities of the BAB. Academic publishing, whether from or about Namibia, remains limited. TheBasel Na-mibia Studies Seriescontinues to provide a forum for exciting scholarly work in the human and social sciences. The editors welcome contributions. For further information, or submission of manu-scripts, please contact theBasler Afrika Bibliographienat www.baslerafrika.ch.
Für meine Eltern
Forewordby Chris Saunders
1 The origins of rivalry over NamibiaEast Germany’s solidarity with African liberation movements Ostpolitik:The two German states’ rivalry in Namibia Instruments of Foreign Policy
2 Political Parties and SWAPOWest Germany Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) Free Democratic Party (FDP) Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) The Green Party East Germany The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED)
3 SWAPO: theBundestagand the Foreign OïceTheBundestagThe Kohl government in theBundestagin the early 1980s The Foreign OĹce
4 The decision-making process regarding NamibiaThe Germans of Namibia
5 East and West German rivalry: the mid-to-late 1970sThe controversy over West Germany’s consulate in Windhoek West Germany’s cultural programme with South Africa and Namibia West Germany’s relations with South Africa in the late 1970s East and West Germany’s Intensi⁞cation of Relations with SWAPO in  the late 1970s
6 East and West German rivalry: the early to mid-1980sThe mid-1980s: the Kohl government and the Namibia question
11 11 26 31
38 38 38 48 56 62 66 66
81 81 99 102
108 130
137 137 143 149
174 187
The mid-to-late 1980sNon-governmental organisations and West Germany’s policy towards Namibia The late 1980s: The two Germanys and Namibia The two German states’ involvement in the UNTAG mission in Namibia  between 1989 and 1990
List of Abbreviations
207 207 222
th Namibia was colonized and occupied in the late 19 century by the German empire, which th in the early 20 century carried out a policy of genocide there against the Herero and Nama people. After German rule of Namibia came to an end in 1915, a German-speaking white community with considerable economic and strategic in uence remained in the territory. Not surprisingly, when after the Second World War there existed two Germanys, on dif-ferent sides of the Cold War, both played in uential roles in the long struggle to achieve Namibia’s independence. These roles were very di⁝erent. The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was part of the West, while its counterpart in the East was a member of the Warsaw Pact and belonged to the Soviet bloc of countries. It is the Cold War rivalry between the two Germanys in relation to Namibia that Thorsten Kern chose as the topic for his doctorate at the University of Cape Town. He has now revised his thesis for this publication. Draw-ing on extensive and careful research, he tells the story, in rich detail, of rivalry between the two Germanys in relation to Namibia in the 1970s and 1980s, which he sets in both a European and Southern African context, weaving political developments in West Germany into changing policy on such matters as the closure of the West German consulate in Wind-hoek and cultural ties with the German community in South West Africa/Namibia. Kern writes with admirable clarity on what is a highly complex topic, involving, on the one hand, relations between the two Germanys that changed over time, and, on the other, relations between each Germany and those involved with the Namibian issue, ranging from South African lobby groups to the main Namibian liberation movement, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO). Though, as Kern fully acknowledges, previous studies have been undertaken on as-pects of this story, what sets his book apart and gives it its main importance, is that it is based on a wealth of archival material not previously used by scholars. This is primarily because a thirty-year rule (Sperrfristen)blocked access to the main German archives had before Kern undertook his research. He trawled through various German archives, includ-ing the Political Archive of the West German Foreign OĹce (PAAA), the Foundation for the Archives of the Parties and Mass Organizations of the GDR (SAPMO) at theBundesarchiv, and the GDR Ministry of State Security Archive (BStU) in Berlin, as well as the archives of West German political parties. He used the National Archives of Namibia in Windhoek and conducted interviews with key individuals. Especially useful for those who do not easily read German, he draws upon a wide range of relevant secondary sources, many of which are in German.