The Caprivi Strip
The Caprivi Strip's nerve-centre, Katima Mulilo, is closer to Lusaka, Harare or Gaborone than it is to Windhoek, and in many ways this region is more like the countries which surround it than like the rest of Namibia. For example, note the different designs of the rondavels and villages as you travel through. Some are identical to those in eastern Zimbabwe, while others resemble the fenced-in kraals in Botswana. Even the local language used in the schools, the Caprivi's lingua franca, is the Lozi language – as spoken by the Lozi people of Zambia.
Situated on the banks of the Zambezi, Katima Mulilo is a very lively, pleasant town with a bustling market and most of the facilities that you are likely to need. Away from the main town, the region has two established national parks, Mamili and Muumuu. These are both lush, riverside reserves with increasing numbers of animals, and a very bright future. Sadly, the Caprivi Game Park has still to live up to its name, having been badly abused during the war of independence and largely ignored since then. Right on the area's eastern tip, relying mainly on the riverside attractions of Botswana's Chobe National Park, several new lodges are now springing up.
History of the Strip
On the map, the Caprivi Strip appears to be a strange appendage of Namibia rather than a part of it. It forms a strategic corridor of land, linking Namibia to Zimbabwe and Zambia, but seems somehow detached from the rest of the country. The region's history explains why.
When Germany annexed South West Africa (Namibia) in 1884, it prompted British fears that they might try to link up with the Boers, in the Transvaal, and thus drive a wedge between these territories and cut the Cape off from Rhodesia. Out of fear, the British negotiated an alliance with Khama, a powerful Tswana king, and proclaimed the Protectorate of Bechuanaland – the forerunner of modern Botswana. At that time, this included the present-day Caprivi Strip. Geographically this made sense if the main reason for Britain's claim was to block Germany's expansion into central Africa.
Meanwhile, off Africa's east coast, Germany laid claim to Zanzibar. This was the end game of the colonial 'scramble for Africa', which set the stage for the Berlin Conference of July 1890. Then these two colonial powers sat down in Europe to reorganise their African possessions with strokes of a pen.
Britain agreed to sever the Caprivi from Bechuanaland and give control of it to Germany, to add to their province of South West Africa (now Namibia). Germany hoped to use it to access the Zambezi's trade routes to the east, and named it after the German Chancellor of the time, Count George Leo von Caprivi. In return for this (and also the territory of Heligoland), Germany ceded control of Zanzibar to Britain, and agreed to redefine South West Africa's eastern border with Britain's Bechuanaland.
At the end of World War II the land was again incorporated into Bechuanaland, but in 1929 it was again returned to South West Africa, then under South African rule. Hence it became part of Namibia.