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south-west africa

Namibia

[nuh-mib-ee-uh]
officially Republic of Namibia

Country, southwest coast of Africa. Area: 318,580 sq mi (825,118 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 2,030,000. Capital: Windhoek. About one-third of the people are Ovambo. Others include Nama, Kavango, Herero, and San. Languages: English (official), various Bantu languages (notably Ovambo), Afrikaans, San. Religions: Christianity (Protestant, Roman Catholic, other Christians); also traditional beliefs. Currency: Namibian dollar. Namibia may be divided into three broad regions: the Namib Desert, the Central Plateau, and the Kalahari Desert. The economy is based largely on agriculture and on the production and export of diamonds. Namibia is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. Long inhabited by indigenous peoples, it was explored by the Portuguese in the late 15th century. In 1884 it was annexed by Germany as German South West Africa. It was captured in World War I by South Africa (and subsequently called South West Africa until 1968), which received it as a mandate from the League of Nations in 1919 and refused to give it up after World War II. A UN resolution in 1966 ending the mandate was challenged by South Africa in the 1970s and '80s. Through long negotiations involving many factions and interests, Namibia achieved independence in 1990. The country has been severely affected by the AIDS epidemic; a large proportion of the population has become infected with HIV.

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