The independence process began on April 1 1989, and was achieved with the help of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG). This consisted of some 7,000 people from 110 countries who worked from nearly 200 locations within the country to ensure free and fair elections and as smooth a transition period to independence as was possible.
In November 1989, 710,000 Namibians (a 97% turn-out) voted in the members of the National Assembly which would draft the country's first constitution. SWAPO won decisively, but without the two-thirds majority it needed to write the nation's constitution single-handedly, thereby allaying the fears of Namibia's minorities. The 72 elected members (68 men and four women) of the Constituent Assembly, representing between them seven different political parties, soon reached agreement on a constitution for the new Namibia, which was subsequently hailed as one of the world's most democratic. Finally, at 00.20 on March 21 1990, I watched as the Namibian flag replaced South Africa's over Windhoek, witnessed by Pérez de Cuéllar, the UN Secretary-General, F W de Klerk, the South African President and Sam Nujoma, Namibia's first president.
The country's mood was peaceful and, on the day, ecstatic. There was a tremendous feeling of optimism, as (arguably) Africa's last colonial territory had earned its independence – after sustained diplomatic pressure and a bitter liberation struggle that stretched back to the turn of the century.
Politics since independence
Since the start there has been every indication that Namibia would stand by its constitution and develop into a peaceful and prosperous state. Walvis Bay, previously disputed by South Africa, was transferred to Windhoek's control on February 28 1994, and its relations with neighbouring countries remain good.
In December 1994 general elections for the National Assembly returned SWAPO to power, with 53 out of 72 seats, and extended Sam Nujoma's presidency for a further five years. The main opposition continues to be the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), although it is still haunted by the stigma of its co-operation with the former South African regime.