United Nations Commissioner for Namibia

United Nations Commissioner for Namibia

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United Nations Commissioner for South-West Africa was a post created by the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 (UNGA
Unga
Unga may refer to:* Harvey Unga , American football running back* Unga, Alaska, United States* Unga , the largest land-living arthropod in the world* Unga , a traditional Scottish land measurement...

) in 1966 to assert the UN's direct responsibility for South-West Africa which was then under illegal occupation by apartheid South Africa
History of South Africa in the apartheid era
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced by the National Party governments of South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority 'non-white' inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained...

.

UNGA renamed the post United Nations Commissioner for Namibia in 1968.

Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

 eventually achieved its independence from South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 on 21 March 1990.

Background


After World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, South Africa was given a League of Nations mandate
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

 to administer South-West Africa. Following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the introduction of apartheid, South Africa's mandate was revoked by UNGA in October 1966. In May 1967, during its fifth session, UNGA established the United Nations Council for South-West Africa "to administer South-West Africa until independence, with the maximum possible participation of the people of the territory". In 1968, it adopted the name "Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

" for the territory. The United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 endorsed UNGA's actions by adopting resolutions 264
United Nations Security Council Resolution 264
United Nations Security Council Resolution 264 was adopted on March 20, 1969, after a General Assembly resolution terminated the mandate of South West Africa ....

 and 269
United Nations Security Council Resolution 269
United Nations Security Council Resolution 269, adopted on August 12, 1969, condemned the government of South Africa for its refusal to comply with resolution 264, deciding that the continued occupation of South West Africa was an aggressive encroachment on the authority of the United Nations...

 of 1969.

UNSCR 276
United Nations Security Council Resolution 276
United Nations Security Council Resolution 276, adopted on January 30, 1970, after reaffirming previous resolutions and statements, the Council condemned South Africa's continued occupation of Namibia as illegal and decided to establish an ad hoc sub-committee to study the ways and means by which...

 of 1970 confirmed the illegality of South Africa's presence in the territory. The same year, the Security Council decided to request an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

 (ICJ) as to the legal consequences for Member States of South Africa's continued presence in Namibia notwithstanding UNSCR 276 of 1970. The following year the ICJ's Advisory Opinion confirmed UNGA's revocation of the mandate and declared that South Africa must withdraw its administration and end its occupation and that Member States were under an obligation to refrain from any support or assistance to South Africa in Namibia.

UN Commissioners


There were seven occupants of the post of United Nations Commissioner for Namibia (UNCN). South Africa refused to recognise any of the UN Commissioners.
commissioner nationality term of office
Anton Vratuša
Anton Vratuša
Anton Vratuša is a former politician and diplomat, who was Prime Minister of Slovenia and Yugoslavia's ambassador to the United Nations....

 
Yugoslavia
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the abolition of the Yugoslav monarchy until it was dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,...

 
27 October 1966 — 13 June 1967
Konstantinos Stavropoulos  Greece
Kingdom of Greece
The Kingdom of Greece was a state established in 1832 in the Convention of London by the Great Powers...

 
13 June 1967 — 1 December 1969 (acting)
Agha Abdul Hamid  Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 
1 December 1969 — 18 December 1973 (acting)
Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride was an Irish government minister and prominent international politician as well as a Chief of Staff of the IRA....

 
Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 
18 December 1973 — 1 January 1977
Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari is a Finnish politician, the tenth President of Finland , Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work....

 
Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 
1 January 1977 — 1 April 1982
Brijesh Mishra
Brijesh Mishra
Brajesh Chandra Mishra was the first National Security Advisor and principal secretary to the former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee....

 
India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 
1 April 1982 — 1 July 1987
Bernt Carlsson
Bernt Carlsson
Bernt Wilmar Carlsson was Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations and United Nations Commissioner for Namibia from July 1987 until he died on Pan Am Flight 103, which was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988.-Social democrat:A native of Stockholm, Carlsson joined the...

 
Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 
1 July 1987 — 21 December 1988

Transition to independence


Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari is a Finnish politician, the tenth President of Finland , Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work....

 returned to Namibia in April 1989 as the UN's Special Representative
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
A Special Representative of the Secretary-General is a highly respected expert who has been appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to represent her/him in meetings with heads of state on critical human rights issues...

 to head up the United Nations Transition Assistance Group
United Nations Transition Assistance Group
The United Nations Transition Assistance Group was a United Nations peacekeeping force deployed from April 1989 to March 1990 in Namibia to monitor the peace process and elections there. Namibia had been occupied by South Africa since 1915, first under a League of Nations mandate and later...

 (UNTAG), which supervised the South African appointed Administrator-General, Louis Pienaar
Louis Pienaar
Louis Pienaar is a South African lawyer and former diplomat. In 1985, the apartheid government put him in charge of Namibia, in the lead-up to that country's independence in 1990...

, and to oversee the decolonisation of Africa's last colony.

Setback


On April 1, 1989 — "D-Day" for the peace plan — UNTAG units had not been fully deployed and those that were (mostly civilians and monitors) lacked equipment for both transportation and communication. Despite this, hopes were high, as an informal ceasefire had held for nearly seven months. However, in the early morning, SADF reported that heavily armed groups of SWAPO militants of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) had begun crossing the border and establishing positions in northern Namibia which, if true, would have been a clear violation of the agreement that they should be confined to their Angolan bases. SWAPO denied that it had violated the terms of the agreement and claimed that its fighters had been going to turn in weapons to UNTAG and had been attacked by the SADF.

UNTAG's head, Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari is a Finnish politician, the tenth President of Finland , Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work....

, came under pressure from British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

, who was visiting Southern Africa at the time, and from South African foreign minister, Pik Botha
Pik Botha
Roelof Frederik "Pik" Botha is a former South African politician who served as the country's foreign minister in the last years of the apartheid era...

, to allow SADF forces to leave their bases and repel the SWAPO incursions. Ahtisaari quickly decided to allow a limited deployment, and would later describe this decision as his most difficult. He told The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

:
"We were in a restraining business, not releasing troops but trying to restrain them. Otherwise, the entire South African military might have gone after the Namibian guerrillas, and I think they might have gone into Angola. By limiting South African retaliation to half a dozen army battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s and police units, the transition process was ultimately saved."


A period of intense fighting followed with the SWAPO forces sustaining over 350 fatalities.

New agreement


Hurried negotiations took place and a new agreement was reached on April 20, 1989 when SADF forces withdrew to base for 60 hours, allowing SWAPO militants to withdraw peacefully. The SADF were then given two weeks to confirm that SWAPO had indeed left Namibia and also to capture any weapons caches discovered. This agreement was stuck to by both sides, though Ahtisaari and the UN Secretary-General were nervous about the length of time the SADF were out of their bases, and pushed hard to get them back to barracks
Barracks
Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

. Despite these reservations, the withdrawal and verification passed without incident and by the end UNTAG was almost fully deployed, albeit a month behind schedule.

In October 1989, under orders of the UN Security Council, Pretoria was forced to demobilize some 1,600 members of Koevoet
Koevoet
Koevoet , also known as "Operation K" and officially known as the "South West Africa Police Counter-Insurgency Unit" , was a police counter insurgency unit in South-West Africa during the 1970s and 1980s...

 (Afrikaans
Afrikaans
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

 for crowbar
Crowbar (tool)
A crowbar, a wrecking bar, pry bar, or prybar, or sometimes a prise bar or prisebar, and more informally a jimmy, jimmy bar, jemmy or gooseneck is a tool consisting of a metal bar with a single curved end and flattened points, often with a small fissure on one or both ends for removing nails...

). The Koevoet issue had been one of the most difficult UNTAG faced. This counter-insurgency unit was formed by South Africa after the adoption of UNSCR 435, and was not, therefore, mentioned in the Settlement Proposal or related documents. The UN regarded Koevoet as a paramilitary unit which ought to be disbanded but the unit continued to deploy in the north in armoured and heavily armed convoys. In June 1989, the Special Representative told the Administrator-General that this behaviour was totally inconsistent with the Settlement Proposal
Settlement Proposal
The 1978 Settlement Proposal in Namibia, devised by the Contact Group of Western States, mandated the United Nations Transition Assistance Group under United Nations Security Council Resolution 435 to assist a UN Special Representative appointed by the UN Secretary-General 'to ensure the early...

, which required the police to be lightly armed. Moreover, the vast majority of the Koevoet personnel were quite unsuited for continued employment in the South West African Police (SWAPOL). The Security Council, in its resolution 640 (1989) of August 29, therefore demanded the disbanding of Koevoet and dismantling of its command structures. South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, announced on September 28, 1989 that 1,200 ex-Koevoet members would be demobilized with effect from the following day. A further 400 such personnel were demobilized on October 30. These demobilizations were supervised by UNTAG military monitors.

Peaceful end


The 11-month transition period ended relatively smoothly . Political prisoners were granted amnesty, discriminatory legislation was repealed, South Africa withdrew all its forces from Namibia, and some 42,000 refugees returned safely and voluntarily under the auspices of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Almost 98% of registered voters turned out to elect members of the Constituent Assembly. The elections were held in November 1989 and were certified as free and fair by the UN Special Representative
Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari is a Finnish politician, the tenth President of Finland , Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work....

, with SWAPO taking 57% of the vote, just short of the two-thirds necessary to have a free hand in revising the framework constitution. The opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance received 29% of the vote. The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on November 21, 1989 and resolved unanimously to use the 1982 Constitutional Principles in Namibia's new constitution.

(According to The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

of July 26, 1991, Pik Botha
Pik Botha
Roelof Frederik "Pik" Botha is a former South African politician who served as the country's foreign minister in the last years of the apartheid era...

 told a press conference that the South African government had paid more than £20 million to at least seven political parties in Namibia to oppose SWAPO in the run-up to the 1989 elections. He justified the expenditure on the grounds that South Africa was at war with SWAPO at the time.)

Independence day


Independence Day
Independence Day
An Independence Day is an annual event commemorating the anniversary of a nation's assumption of independent statehood, usually after ceasing to be a colony or part of another nation or state, and more rarely after the end of a military occupation...

 on March 21, 1990 was celebrated in Windhoek
Windhoek
Windhoek is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia. It is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area, at around above sea level. The 2001 census determined Windhoek's population was 233,529...

's sports stadium which was attended by numerous international representatives, including the main players, the UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar y de la Guerra is a Peruvian diplomat who served as the fifth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1, 1982 to December 31, 1991. He studied in Colegio San Agustín of Lima, and then at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. In 1995, he ran unsuccessfully...

 and President of South Africa F W de Klerk, who jointly conferred formal independence on Namibia. Sam Nujoma
Sam Nujoma
Samuel Daniel Shafiishuna Nujoma is a Namibian politician who was the first President of Namibia from 1990 to 2005. He led the South-West Africa People's Organisation in its long struggle against South African rule and took office as President when Namibia obtained independence on 21 March 1990...

 was sworn in as the first President of Namibia watched by Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 (just released from prison) and representatives from 147 countries, including 20 heads of state.

On March 1, 1994, the coastal enclave of Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay , is a city in Namibia and the name of the bay on which it lies...

 and 12 offshore islands were transferred to Namibia by South Africa. This followed 3 years of bilateral negotiations between the two governments and the establishment of a transitional Joint Administrative Authority (JAA) in November 1992 to administer the 780 km² (300 square mile) territory. The peaceful resolution of this territorial dispute was praised by the international community, as it fulfilled the provisions of UNSCR 432 (1978), which declared Walvis Bay to be an integral part of Namibia.