Structure and deployment of UNTAG

D-Day and its aftermath

Functions of UNTAG

After the elections




The United Nations operation in Namibia marked the culmination of 70 years of pressure by the organized international community - through the League of Nations - and then the United Nations to enable the people of the Territory to live in peace, freedom and independence. Its climax came shortly after midnight on 21 March 1990, when the South African flag was lowered, the Namibian flag was raised, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, administered the oath of office to Mr. Sam Nujoma as President of the newly independent State.

Namibia had been the particular concern of the United Nations from its earliest days in 1946. In 1966, the General Assembly terminated the Mandate of South Africa to administer the Territory and placed it under the direct responsibility of the United Nations. From that time onwards, the pace of negotiation quickened, and led, though still at tortuous length and with great complexity, to the Security Council's decision on 16 February 1989 to implement a Settlement Proposal which had first been agreed in 1978.

The agreed settlement was a negotiated compromise and led to a most unusual, indeed sui generis, United Nations operation: the de facto but illegal occupying Power, South Africa, and the United Nations, in which de jure authority reposed but which had not previously been able to establish effective administration in Namibia, were to work together to enable the Namibian people to exercise their right of self-determination. The central objective of the United Nations operation was to create conditions for the holding of free and fair elections for a Constituent Assembly which would draw up a Constitution under which Namibia would proceed to independence as a free and sovereign State. The process, all of which was to take place under United Nations supervision and control, would move step by step from a ceasefire in a long and bitter war to the final moment of transition, that of independence. Every step had to be completed, in a democratic manner, to the satisfaction of the Secretary-General's Special Representative.

At its height, nearly 8,000 men and women - civilians, police, military - from more than 120 countries were deployed in Namibia to assist this process. Every step was followed with the closest attention, not only by the people of Namibia themselves but by the members of the Security Council, who had set the process in motion, by the international community at large, by the media and by a multitude of non-governmental organizations.

The complexity of the operation and the intense interest it aroused led the Secretary-General to establish at Headquarters in New York a high-level Namibia Task Force, which met daily under his chairmanship, to coordinate the Secretariat's role and to provide policy guidance and maximum support to the Special Representative in the field. The Task Force comprised the Secretary-General's Chef de Cabinet, the Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs, the Under-Secretary-General responsible for African questions, the Legal Counsel, the Military Adviser, the Secretary-General's Spokesman and supporting staff.

The United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) was an operation, in which the tasks of each element civilian, police, military - were bonded together in the field under the Special Representative, with a view to achieving a structural change in society by means of a democratic process, in accordance with an agreed timetable. Though it had elements reminiscent of other United Nations field operations, which have monitored elections and law and order and patrolled borders with peacekeeping forces, it also had numerous novel aspects. It did not fit into the traditional mould of peacekeeping operations nor did it follow the pattern of the United Nations previous endeavours in the decolonization process. UNTAG was, in effect, in charge of the process, because each step had to be done to the satisfaction of the Secretary-General's Special Representative. The breadth and depth of the United Nations' political engagement with the process of change, and the integration of high-level Secretariat and UNTAG elements into this process, gave UNTAG its special character, with all tasks being conducted at a brisk pace, in conditions which posed daunting logistics and support problems.


The context of the Settlement Proposal

Namibia, formerly South West Africa, with an area of 824,269 square kilometres, is a mainly arid country, with a sparse and widely dispersed population, estimated at 1.4 million, which is culturally and linguistically diverse. About half the inhabitants live in the relatively densely populated north-western border area adjacent to Angola.

In 1884, Germany annexed the Territory of South West Africa and retained control of it until the First World War, when an invasion by South Africa resulted in the defeat of German forces in July 1915. In December 1920, the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations conferred upon the British Crown for and on behalf of the Government of South Africa (the Mandatory) a class C Mandate over South West Africa (i.e., the Territory could best be administered under the laws of the Mandatory "as an integral portion of the Union of South Africa". Problems regarding South West Africa arose at almost every session of the Mandates Commission, and the people of the Territory often petitioned the League, complaining of South Africa's administration.

After the Second World War, however, when the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations assumed the responsibilities of the League's Permanent Mandates Commission, the validity of the mandate became a contentious issue. South Africa sought to incorporate South West Africa as a fifth province and, in 1948, ceased submitting annual reports to the United Nations. That same year, it granted whites living in the Territory direct representation in the South African parliament. In 1950, 1955 and 1956, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), at the request of the General Assembly, gave Advisory Opinions on the South West African question. In the 1950 Advisory Opinion, the Court concluded that South Africa had no legal obligation to conclude a trusteeship agreement with the United Nations, but also held that the Mandate was still in force, and that South Africa had no right to change the Territory's international status. The 1955 and 1956 Advisory Opinions dealt with the voting procedure of the General Assembly in considering reports and petitions on South West Africa and with its right to hear oral petitioners.

In 1962, Ethiopia and Liberia, the only African States which had been members of the League of Nations, brought action against South Africa at the ICJ, alleging failure on the part of South Africa to fulfil its international obligations in respect of South West Africa. While the case was in progress, a South African Government commission published and began to implement the Odendaal Report, a plan to divide the Territory into 12 regions or "homelands", with over 60 per cent of the land remaining under the control of whites. In 1966, a deeply divided ICJ ruled that Ethiopia and Liberia, even though they had been members of the League of Nations, did not have any legal right or interest appertaining to them in the subject matter of the present claims, and that accordingly, the Court must decline to give effect to them.

In July 1966, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) which, in 1976, was to be recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 31/146 as "the sole and authentic representative of the Namibian people" resolved, if necessary, to employ all possible means to achieve national liberation, including armed struggle.

In October 1966, by resolution 2145 (XXI), the General Assembly revoked the Mandate and declared the Territory to be the direct responsibility of the United Nations. In May 1967, during its fifth special session, the Assembly, by resolution 2248 (S-V), established the United Nations Council for South West Africa, inter alia, "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" for the Territory. By its resolutions 264 (1969) and 269 (1969), the Security Council endorsed the actions of the General Assembly.

In 1970, by resolution 276, the Security Council confirmed the illegality of South Africa's presence in the Territory. The same year, the Council decided to request an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice as to the legal consequences for States of South Africa's continued presence in Namibia notwithstanding resolution 276 (1970). In 1971, in its Advisory Opinion, the Court confirmed the Assembly's revocation of the Mandate. It declared that South Africa must withdraw its administration and end its occupation and that Member States were under the obligation to refrain from any support or assistance to South Africa in Namibia.

In 1973, the General Assembly created the post of United Nations Commissioner for Namibia, to which Mr. Sean MacBride (Ireland) was appointed. He was succeeded by Mr. Martti Ahtisaari (Finland) (1977-1982), Mr. Brajesh Mishra (India) (1982-1987) and Mr. Bernt Carlsson (Sweden) (1987-1988).

South Africa, however, continued to pursue its own plans for the Territory. In 1975, it convened a constitutional conference in Windhoek of the leaders of the homelands set up under the Odendaal Plan. SWAPO was not invited. The Turnhalle group (named after the building where the conference took place) established an interim government and agreed to aim for independence at the end of 1976.

On 30 January of that year, the Security Council adopted resolution 385, in which it declared that it was imperative to hold free elections under United Nations supervision and control for the whole of Namibia as one political entity. South Africa did not initially accept this plan.

Five Western members of the Security Council Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States - then began to seek a way of implementing resolution 385. This group, which became known as the "Contact Group", worked principally with South Africa, SWAPO and the front-line States (then comprising Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia) and maintained close contact with the Secretary-General and Mr. Ahtisaari, the United Nations Commissioner for Namibia at that time. A round of "proximity talks", held in New York in February 1978, produced the "Proposal for a settlement of the Namibian situation" which, on 10 April 1978, was presented by the Contact Group to the President of the Security Council.

The Settlement Proposal and Security Council resolution 435 (1978)

The Settlement Proposal contained a negotiated compromise. Described as a "working arrangement" which would "in no way constitute recognition of the legality of the South African presence in and administration of Namibia", it allowed South Africa, through an Administrator-General designated by it, to administer elections, but under United Nations supervision and control exercised through a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, who would be assisted by a "United Nations Transition Assistance Group" (UNTAG). The Contact Group stated that the Proposal addressed all elements of resolution 385, but "the key to an internationally acceptable transition to independence is free elections for the whole of Namibia as one political entity with an appropriate United Nations role". All other elements of the Proposal were intended to facilitate this central objective of a democratic exercise in self-determination.

The Proposal's detailed provisions were accompanied by a timetable scheduling the actions required from the various parties. Approximately seven months were assigned for a complex series of steps culminating in the holding of elections. Implementation was to begin on "D-Day", as it was called, with a ceasefire in the war between South Africa and SWAPO, accompanied by the confinement to base of all combatants. Within six weeks of D-Day, the level of South Africa Defence Force (SADF) personnel was to be reduced to 12,000 and by 12 weeks after D-Day, to 1,500, confined to two bases in northern Namibia. As regards the local military and paramilitary forces established by South Africa, their command structures were to be dismantled and they were to be demobilized, their arms being placed under guarded supervision. By the beginning of the election campaign, due to start at the thirteenth week, all political prisoners and detainees, wherever they were held, were to be released and all discriminatory or restrictive laws which might abridge or inhibit the objective of free and fair elections were to be repealed. All Namibian refugees were to be allowed to return peacefully so that they could freely participate in the electoral process. Provision was to be made for the peaceful return of former SWAPO forces under United Nations supervision through designated entry points. While primary responsibility for maintaining law and order during the transition period was to remain with the existing police forces, the Administrator-General, to the satisfaction of the Special Representative, was to ensure their good conduct and to take the necessary action to ensure their suitability for continued employment during the transition period. The Special Representative was to make appropriate arrangements for United Nations personnel to accompany the police forces in the discharge of their duties.

As regards the political and electoral process, the Special Representative would have to satisfy himself at each stage as to the fairness and appropriateness of all measures affecting the political process at all levels of administration before such measures took effect. He himself would also be authorized to make proposals in regard to any aspect of the political process. Every adult Namibian was to be eligible, without discrimination or fear of intimidation from any source, to vote, campaign and stand for election to a Constituent Assembly which would draw up and adopt the Constitution for an independent and sovereign Namibia. Voting was to be by secret ballot, provision being made for those who could not read or write. There would be prompt decisions on the dates for the beginning of the electoral campaign and for the elections themselves, as well as on the electoral system, the preparation of voters' rolls and other aspects of electoral procedures. Full freedom of speech, assembly, movement and the press was to be guaranteed. Only when the Special Representative had satisfied himself as to the fairness and appropriateness of the electoral procedures was the official electoral campaign to commence. The implementation of the electoral process, including the proper registration of voters and the proper and timely tabulation and publication of voting results, was to be conducted to the satisfaction of the Special Representative. The Special Representative was also to take steps to guarantee against the possibility of intimidation or interference with the electoral process from any quarter.

One week after the date on which the Special Representative had certified the election, SADF was to withdraw its remaining personnel, SWAPO bases were to be closed, and the Constituent Assembly was to convene in order to draw up and adopt the Constitution. Whatever additional steps were necessary would be taken prior to the installation of the new Government, and independence. The Contact Group anticipated that this would occur, at the latest, by 31 December 1978.

Walvis Bay could not be included in the Settlement Plan. In 1977, after it had been administered for 55 years as if it were part of the territory of South West Africa, the South African President issued a proclamation by which it was provided that Walvis Bay would be administered as part of the South African Province of the Cape of Good Hope. In November 1977, the General Assembly declared Walvis Bay to be an integral part of Namibia. By resolution 432 (1978) the Security Council took a similar position: it "declared that the territorial integrity and unity of Namibia must be assured through the reintegration of Walvis Bay within its territory". In order not to further complicate the difficult negotiations on the conclusion of the Settlement Plan, it was decided to take up the issue of Walvis Bay as soon as the Settlement Plan was executed and Namibian independence achieved.

By Security Council resolution 431 (1978), the Secretary-General was requested to appoint a Special Representative for Namibia and to submit a report making recommendations concerning the implementation of the Settlement Proposal. The Secretary-General appointed Mr. Martti Ahtisaari as his Special Representative and dispatched a survey mission led by him to the Territory. Upon receiving the report of the mission, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council on 29 August 1978 a plan to implement the Proposal and to provide the means that would be required to assist the Special Representative in doing so. He pointed out that it would obviously not be possible to complete the process by 31 December 1978 because the plan required approximately seven months for the completion of the stages prior to an election, and it would not be possible to abbreviate this consistently with the objective of holding free and fair elections. The Secretary-General's report stressed the resources that would be required to carry out the plan; with large civilian (including police) and military components and a substantial and complicated logistics structure.

On 29 September 1978, the Secretary-General made an explanatory statement to the Security Council in reply to various questions which had been raised about his report. On the same day, the Security Council, by resolution 435, approved the Secretary-General's report and his explanatory statement.

From the adoption of resolution 435 to its implementation

Despite the protracted delay which occurred before implementation, and the extensive consultations which took place both within and outside the United Nations framework, resolution 435 established the definitive plan for Namibian independence.

Many rounds of further consultations on matters of detail led to what was planned as a "Pre-Implementation Meeting" of all parties concerned, at Geneva in January 1981. However, because of charges by the Turnhalle group of United Nations partiality in favour of SWAPO, the meeting failed to achieve its objective, namely, the setting of a date for a ceasefire and the start of implementation in the early part of 1981. The Contact Group resumed its discussions later that year, as did the Secretary-General with all the parties. In July 1982, the Contact Group transmitted to the Secretary-General the text of "Principles concerning the Constituent Assembly and the Constitution for an independent Namibia". These, they noted, had been put forward by their Governments, and all parties to the negotiations had accepted them. The Secretary-General stepped up his own consultations, and an updating of the Secretariat's implementation plans took place. However, other issues began to assume major importance, it being asserted that there could be no implementation of resolution 435 without parallel progress on the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola - the so-called "linkage".

In a report to the Security Council on 19 May 1983, however, the Secretary-General emphasized the deteriorating situation in the region, and said that the delay in implementing resolution 435 was having widespread destructive consequences. So far as the United Nations was concerned, the sole outstanding questions related to the choice of an electoral system and the settlement of some final problems relating to UNTAG and its composition. He expressed deep concern "that factors which lie outside the scope of resolution 435" should hamper its implementation. The process of consultation continued thereafter, with the Secretary-General exploring every avenue with the parties to seek to bring about the agreed independence process in full accordance with resolution 435.

"Linkage" remained, however, an apparently insuperable obstacle until a series of meetings took place between Angola, Cuba and South Africa in London, Cairo, New York and Geneva, from May to August 1988, under the mediation of the United States and with the participation of the Soviet Union, with the aim of achieving a regional settlement to the conflict in south-western Africa. The three parties established "Principles for a peaceful settlement in south-western Africa", and then a sequence of agreed steps necessary to prepare the way for the independence of Namibia in accordance with resolution 435, and to achieve peace in south-western Africa. The various elements of these agreements were embodied in the Geneva Protocol of 8 August 1988, which provided, inter alia, for a cessation of hostile acts with effect from 10 August 1988. SWAPO, although not a party to the Protocol, informed the Secretary-General that it had agreed to comply with the cessation of hostile acts embodied therein.

Immediately thereafter, the peace process began to move apace. The Secretary-General, who had remained actively involved in efforts to begin implementation of the resolution 435 process, was invited by the South African State President, Mr. P. W. Botha, to visit that country in September 1988 to discuss preparations for the implementation of resolution 435, and the general situation in the region. He told the State President, among other things, that the system of proportional representation had been agreed on for elections in Namibia. From South Africa, the Secretary-General proceeded to Luanda, where he met the President of Angola, Mr. José Eduardo dos Santos, to discuss with him progress in regard to the situation in south-western Africa.

Further meetings between Angola, Cuba and South Africa took place in Brazzaville, Congo, under the continuing mediation of the United States, leading to the signature of the Brazzaville Protocol. By this, the parties agreed to recommend that 1 April 1989 be established as the date for the beginning of implementation of resolution 435. They also agreed to establish a tripartite Joint Commission, which the Soviet Union and the United States would attend as observers. The three parties met on 22 December 1988 in New York, at United Nations Headquarters, for signature of a tripartite agreement between them, and for signature by Angola and Cuba of a bilateral agreement relating to the phased withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. In anticipation of the bilateral agreement, the Security Council had decided, in resolution 626 (1988) of 20 December 1988, to establish the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM), for a period of 31 months, to verify implementation of the Angolan-Cuban accord.

On 16 January 1989, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 629 (1989) in which it decided, inter alia, that 1 April 1989 would be the date on which implementation would begin. The Council called on South Africa to reduce the size of its police presence in Namibia, and requested the Secretary-General to prepare an updated report on the implementation of resolution 435, seeking cost-saving measures which would not prejudice the effectiveness of the operation. The Secretary-General's report of 23 January 1989 responded to this request.

The Secretary-General referred to the serious concern which had been expressed to him, particularly by the permanent members of the Security Council, at the size and likely cost of the military component of UNTAG. Under the plan approved by the Council in 1978, this component would have accounted for more than 75 per cent of UNTAG's overall budgeted cost. However, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), front-line States and SWAPO had told him of their strong opposition to any reduction in its size. In these difficult circumstances, the Secretary-General proposed that the authorized upper limit for the military component of UNTAG should remain at 7,500 but that the Force should initially be deployed with a strength of only 4,650: three infantry battalions, each comprising five line companies, would be deployed, with four battalions in reserve in their home countries, instead of the previously planned deployment of six battalions of three line companies each, with one battalion in reserve. If the Special Representative reported a real need for additional military personnel, the Secretary-General would deploy as many of the reserve battalions as he judged to be necessary, subject to there being no objection from the Security Council.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General proposed a concept of operations under which the military component would concentrate on certain specific tasks, namely: monitoring the disbandment of the citizen forces, commando units and ethnic forces, including the South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF); monitoring SADF personnel in Namibia, as well as SWAPO forces in neighbouring countries; and securing installations in the northern border area. Other tasks approved under resolution 435, such as monitoring the cessation of hostile acts by all parties, keeping the borders under surveillance and preventing infiltration, would not, however, be eliminated. Some of them, which were previously to have been carried out by the battalions, would instead be done by military monitors or observers, whose numbers were to be increased from 200 to 300. In view of the increase in the size of the existing police forces in the Territory, the Secretary-General also proposed an increase in the number of UNTAG police monitors from the 360 stipulated in 1978 to 500.

These changes in the plan resulted in a reduction in the overall budget from an estimated $700 million to $416 million, not including the cost of the repatriation and resettlement operation of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which would form the subject of a separate appeal for funding.

The Secretary-General's report also referred to agreements and understandings which had been reached by the parties since the adoption of resolution 435 (1978) and which formed part of the United Nations plan for Namibia. These included the 1982 agreement that UNTAG would monitor SWAPO bases in Angola and Zambia; a number of informal understandings reached in 1982 on the question of impartiality (the "Impartiality Package"; the Constitutional Principles (also finalized in 1982); and the 1985 agreement on a system of proportional representation for the elections envisaged in resolution 435. The "Impartiality Package" was published on 16 May 1989. It included undertakings by the Western Contact Group, the front-line States and Nigeria and SWAPO, with respect to activities within the United Nations system once the Security Council had met to authorize the implementation of resolution 435. It also included corresponding obligations on the part of South Africa in order to ensure free and fair elections in Namibia.

In an explanatory statement on 9 February, the Secretary-General observed that the United Nations was very close to the absolute minimum lead time required for the effective mobilization of UNTAG and its emplacement in Namibia; he emphasized the urgent need for the Council to adopt, without further delay, the necessary enabling resolution so that the date of 1 April 1989 for the commencement of the implementation of the United Nations plan could be met.

If the operation began later than 1 April, it would not be possible to complete the electoral process before the onset of the rainy season in mid-November, which would make many tracks in northern Namibia impassable. In his contacts with all concerned, the Secretary-General also stressed that a minimum of six weeks would be needed for the deployment of UNTAG to the Territory. This could not begin until the General Assembly had approved the budget.

On 16 February, in resolution 632 (1989), the Council approved the Secretary-General's report and explanatory statement, and decided to implement resolution 435 "in its original and definitive form". Later that day, the Secretary-General presented the proposed UNTAG budget to the General Assembly, again stressing the extreme urgency if the 1 April date were to be maintained. He stated that the lead times for delivery of many essential items of equipment were already past. The Assembly, however, was especially concerned over certain aspects of the procurement of goods and services for UNTAG in southern Africa, and did not adopt the budget until 1 March. Until it had been adopted, the Secretary-General lacked the necessary authority to make official requests to Governments for the resources UNTAG required or to conclude commercial arrangements with other suppliers. Moreover, no reserves existed because of the severe financial crisis to which the Organization had been subjected for several years.

As regards the ceasefire envisaged in resolution 435, the Secretary-General had noted in his report of 23 January that South Africa and SWAPO had already agreed to a de facto cessation of hostilities with effect from 10 August 1988, as provided for in that month's Geneva Protocol. He would send identical letters to South Africa and SWAPO proposing a specific date and hour for the formal ceasefire. These letters were sent on 14 March, proposing that the ceasefire should begin at 0400 hours GMT on 1 April. The Secretary-General requested each of the parties to assure him in writing, no later than 22 March 1989, that it had accepted the terms of the ceasefire and had taken all necessary measures to cease all warlike acts and operations. These included tactical movements, cross-border movements and all acts of violence and intimidation in, or having effect in, Namibia. SWAPO and South Africa formally accepted the proposal on 18 and 21 March 1989 respectively. Each also recalled that it had previously informed the Secretary-General of its acceptance of the cessation of hostilities stipulated in the Geneva Protocol.

While it was inevitable that UNTAG's effective deployment would be retarded by several weeks, because of the delays in the Security Council and General Assembly over the size of the military component and aspects of the budget, resources were already pouring into Namibia and UNTAG's key personnel had begun to assemble there by the end of February. For 70 years, the Territory had been the subject of international debate and violent controversy, first in the League of Nations and then in the United Nations. On the eve of implementation of resolution 435, 31 March 1989, all at last seemed calm and auspicious. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General arrived at Windhoek airport on that day and was welcomed by his South African counterpart, the Administrator-General, Advocate Louis Pienaar.


UNTAG's mandate

UNTAG was essentially a political operation. Its basic mandate was to ensure that free and fair elections could be held in Namibia. Creating the conditions for such elections required UNTAG to carry out a wide variety of tasks, many of which went well beyond those previously undertaken by more traditional peacekeeping operations.

UNTAG had to monitor the ceasefire which was supposed to come formally into effect on the first day of the mandate (but which tragically did not do so, see below. It had to monitor the rapid reduction and eventual removal of the South African military presence in Namibia, which was an essential condition for free and fair elections and the subsequent transition to independence. It had the difficult task of ensuring that the remaining security forces, the South West Africa Police (SWAPOL), carried out their duties in a manner which was consistent with free and fair elections.

Above all, UNTAG had the political task of ensuring that a major change in political atmosphere took place so that there could be a free and fair campaign in a fully democratic climate. Numerous changes in law, attitude and society had to take place. But Namibia had had no tradition of political democracy and had been subjected to a harsh and discriminatory system of administration for a hundred years. UNTAG's task was to ensure that, despite this, the people of the country could feel sufficiently confident, free from intimidation from any quarter, and adequately informed, to exercise a free choice as regards their political future.

In carrying out these diverse tasks in the limited time available, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General had the assistance of UNTAG, an equally diverse group of international civilian and military personnel. Under the overall leadership of the Special Representative and his Deputy, Mr. Legwaila Joseph Legwaila (Botswana), UNTAG consisted of a civilian component, which included a large police element, and a military component, which was commanded by the Force Commander, Lieutenant-General Dewan Prem Chand (India). It was deployed at almost 200 locations throughout the Territory.

At maximum deployment, during the elections from 7 to 11 November 1989, UNTAG's overall strength was almost 8,000, consisting of just under 2,000 civilians (including local employees and more than 1,000 additional international personnel who came specifically for the elections), 1,500 police and approximately 4,500 military personnel.

The civilian component (excluding police)

The civilian component consisted of six elements, of which the largest, the police, is described in the next section. The other five were:

(a) the Special Representative's Office;

(b) the Independent Jurist;

(c) the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);

(d) the Electoral Division;

(e) the Division of Administration.

The Special Representative's Office had both coordinating and line functions. It was responsible for overall coordination and liaison with other UNTAG elements, with the Administrator-General's Office and his administration, with the political parties and local interest and community groups, and with the many governmental, and multitudinous non-governmental, observer missions that came to Namibia for the implementation process. Its line functions were mainly in the political and information areas. They involved responsibility for negotiations with the local administration on each of the political processes which had to unfold during implementation of the Settlement Plan and for an extensive information programme which was under the direct supervision of the Special Representative.

The Special Representative, his Deputy and his Office were located in Windhoek. Initially they operated from a series of makeshift offices, but a headquarters (the Troskie Building) became available at the end of April 1989 and its staffing, including liaison, legal and information personnel, was largely complete by early May 1989. In order to support the Special Representative's coordination, liaison, information and political activities and to provide him with a steady flow of information about developments throughout the Territory, 42 political offices were established throughout the length and breadth of Namibia. For this purpose, the Territory was divided into 10 regions: Oshakati, Rundu, Tsumeb, Otjiwarongo, Outjo, Swakopmund, Windhoek, Gobabis, Mariental and Keetmanshoop, with a regional director in charge of each one. Within the regions, 32 district centres were established, the largest number being in the relatively heavily populated Oshakati region.

Almost all these 42 offices were functioning by mid-May 1989, though one or two additional district centres were opened in the northern part of the Territory in early July 1989. A number of them closed immediately after the elections, but the basic structure of political offices remained, though at a somewhat reduced strength, until the mission closed in March 1990. One of their final tasks was to prepare for the United Nations Development Programme and for the other development agencies and programmes a comprehensive guide to the social, economic and political structures in their areas. This would ensure, during the next phase of international support for Namibia, that the extensive local knowledge acquired by UNTAG would not be lost.

The Settlement Proposal provided for the appointment of an Independent Jurist of international standing to advise on any disputes that might arise in connection with the release of political prisoners and detainees. Professor Carl Nörgaard (Denmark) was appointed to that position in 1978. His office was not subject to the direction of the Special Representative but had a quasi-autonomous status, despite being part of UNTAG and financed from its budget. It was located in central Windhoek, separately from the rest of UNTAG. Professor Nörgaard was himself present during the early months of the mission, when the majority of his work took place. His professional assistant remained in Windhoek until the close of the mission to deal with a residue of cases which continued to come forward until early 1990.

The Office of the UNHCR was responsible for the return of Namibian exiles, their reception and their resettlement. All were to be back in Namibia in time to vote, unless they indicated that they did not wish to return. The UNHCR operation was part of the Settlement Plan but was administered by UNHCR and was not financed from the UNTAG budget. However, it came under the overall political structure of UNTAG, and UNTAG facilitated its work. The operation was based at UNTAG headquarters in Windhoek, but UNHCR staff were deployed at many locations throughout Namibia, mostly in the northern half of the Territory. The designated entry points for the return of Namibian exiles were Windhoek, Grootfontein and Oshakati, where agreed formalities were completed before the returnees went to reception centres. In addition, a number of secondary reception centres were established for persons who had difficulty for one reason or another in quickly reintegrating into Namibian society.

UNHCR's key personnel arrived in Namibia on or about 1 April. The peak of their activity was during the repatriation operation, from June to September, but they maintained a presence in the Territory beyond independence in March 1990.

The Electoral Division was responsible for advising the Special Representative on all specialist and technical aspects of the election and for the supervision of the registration and electoral processes. It was also responsible for assisting the Special Representative in his and his deputy's negotiations with the South African Administrator-General concerning the electoral legislation and the manner in which the South African authorities would implement it. The Division was based at UNTAG headquarters in Windhoek. Its relatively small core staff was augmented by large numbers of additional staff, from the United Nations system and from Governments, during registration and the election itself.

For the purposes of registration and the elections, the Territory was divided into 23 electoral areas, in each of which an UNTAG official, usually from one of the regional or district political offices, was appointed district supervisor. All the 180 additional staff required for the registration of voters (3 July to 23 September) were provided from within the United Nations system. At the time of the elections themselves, from 7 to 11 November, the need for extra staff was so great that the Secretary-General sought the help of Member States. A total of 885 specialist personnel were made available by the Governments of the following 27 countries: Australia, Canada, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, German Democratic Republic, Ghana, Greece, India, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Soviet Union, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom.

The Division of Administration was responsible for all aspects of the administration of, and logistics support for, all elements of UNTAG, except for some of the military component, the police element and UNHCR, to the extent that they were self-administered or self-supported. UNTAG's policy was to fashion an integrated system of logistics support, with some items provided by the United Nations from its own resources, some by military logistics units and some by civilian contractors. This required the closest possible coordination and liaison between the Director of Administration and the Force Commander. Difficulties were encountered in the early weeks of the mission, both because of the pre-implementation delays already referred to and because of the tense situation which existed in the Territory following the events of early April. However, by the time of the elections in November, UNTAG's logistics were in key respects superior to those of the South African authorities, who found themselves having to rely on UNTAG's support during the elections, especially in the north.

The Division of Administration was located at UNTAG headquarters in Windhoek. The Director's deputy was based in Grootfontein, close to the concentration of civilian, police and military personnel in the northern part of the Territory. Many members of the Division of Administration were deployed for periods throughout the Territory from time to time. The Director of Administration arrived in Namibia in mid-February 1989, together with key personnel of his staff, and the Division built up rapidly thereafter. The majority departed at the conclusion of the mission after independence in March 1990 but a small >"wind-up" team remained for several months thereafter.

Special efforts were devoted to the training of members of the United Nations Secretariat who were selected for political and electoral assignments with UNTAG. Training seminars took place in New York and Geneva in March 1989 for senior officials appointed to the Special Representative's Office and the 42 regional or district offices. These staff subsequently attended conferences in Windhoek at regular intervals during UNTAG's mandate period to discuss with the Special Representative the current situation, UNTAG's strategy and the carrying out of their responsibilities at each stage. As for electoral staff, they received training at special seminars in Windhoek and elsewhere in Namibia upon their arrival in the Territory.

The civilian police element

The UNTAG civilian police (CIVPOL) were commanded by a Police Commissioner, who, as Police Adviser, also provided advice to the Special Representative and his Deputy on all police-related matters. Commissioner Steven Fanning (Ireland) was appointed to this post on 23 March 1989, having previously advised the Special Representative during the long preparations for the UNTAG mission. As Police Commissioner, he was responsible for the organization, deployment and operations of CIVPOL and shared responsibility with the Director of Administration for their administration and support. Their task was to ensure that the South West Africa Police fulfilled their duty of maintaining law and order in an efficient, professional and non-partisan way.

For police purposes, the Territory was divided in two, with a northern and a southern regional coordinator (later commander) providing coordination at the regional level. The country was further divided into six (later seven) UNTAG police districts. After the first group of 500 police officers had been deployed by May 1989, CIVPOL had 39 police stations; by September, the number had increased to 49.

The first tranche of 500 police monitors was largely deployed in the northern part of the Territory, because of the tense situation which persisted there after the events of early April. Continuing difficulties in the north caused the Special Representative to ask for a second tranche of 500 police monitors. After consulting the Security Council, the Secretary-General obtained the agreement of certain Member States to provide the additional officers, who arrived in the Territory between late June and late August. In the latter month, the Special Representative requested a third tranche of 500 in order to provide sufficient personnel during the election campaign and the elections themselves. After further consultations with the Security Council and contributing Governments, the Secretary-General began sending this group in mid-September and it was fully deployed by 31 October. The focus of CIVPOL's deployment continued to be in the north and on 1 December 1989, almost two thirds of its strength was in the northernmost quarter of the Territory.

The 1,500 police officers who served in CIVPOL were contributed, at the request of the Secretary-General, by the following Member States: Austria, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Federal Republic of Germany, Fiji, German Democratic Republic, Ghana, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Sweden and Tunisia. Almost all CIVPOL personnel remained in Namibia until independence, after which they were rapidly repatriated, with the exception of officers from Ghana, India, Nigeria and Pakistan who, at the request of the incoming Government, remained for a time in Namibia under bilateral arrangements.

The military component

The military component was responsible for all military aspects of the Settlement Plan. The most important of these were monitoring the ceasefire and the confinement of the parties' armed forces to base; monitoring the dismantling of the South African military presence in Namibia; and maintaining some degree of surveillance over the Territory's borders. The military component was commanded by the Force Commander, who was appointed by the Secretary-General after consultation with the Security Council. The Force Commander also advised the Special Representative on military matters and reported through him to the Secretary-General. The Force Commander, and frequently also his deputy, participated in the Special Representative's daily morning meeting, as did the Deputy Special Representative, the Police Adviser and the Director of the Special Representative's Office, together with other senior officials as required.

Lieutenant-General Prem Chand had been appointed as Force Commander designate in 1980 and had played an active part in the preparations for the UNTAG operation. He arrived in Namibia, with the advance party of the UNTAG military component, on 26 February 1989. The Deputy Force Commander was Brigadier-General Daniel Opande (Kenya). General Prem Chand established his headquarters at the Suiderhof base in Windhoek, on the other side of the city from the Troskie Building, where the Special Representative eventually established UNTAG's overall headquarters. Because of the limited accommodation available in Windhoek, it never proved possible to establish an integrated headquarters for both components of UNTAG. As a result, much travelling was required to ensure the close coordination necessitated by the complicated nature of the mission.

The military component, as deployed, consisted of three elements: 300 military monitors and observers; three infantry battalions; and a number of logistics units. The strength approved by the Security Council for initial deployment was 4,650, but the maximum number actually deployed was 4,493, this being due to a reduced requirement of personnel for air support.

The 300 military monitors and observers were contributed by the following Member States: Bangladesh, Czechoslovakia, Finland, India, Ireland, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Sudan, Togo and Yugoslavia. Of these, 291 had been deployed in Namibia before 1 April, though they were often without transport or communications because of the delays already referred to in the final decision-making for the establishment of UNTAG. The monitors, numbering about 200, were deployed at a variety of locations in Namibia and Angola to monitor the ceasefire, the confinement of the parties' forces to base and the dismantling of the South African military presence. In Namibia they were deployed at all the bases of SADF and SWATF units. In Angola, UNTAG (Angola) was based at Lubango, with outposts for several weeks at Chibemba, where SWAPO forces were concentrated after the events of early April, and with a liaison office in Luanda. They were withdrawn in early January 1990, following the return to Namibia of the great majority of the SWAPO forces, and the Luanda liaison office was closed a month later. UNTAG's military observers were deployed for border surveillance purposes in the Walvis Bay area and along Namibia's southern frontier with South Africa. The military monitors and observers left Namibia between January and April 1990.

The three enlarged infantry battalions approved for initial deployment were provided by Finland, Kenya and Malaysia. Four additional battalions were held in reserve, on seven days' notice to move to Namibia, by Bangladesh, Togo, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. In the event, the reserve battalions were not called to Namibia. The delays already referred to had made it clear that it was not going to be possible to deploy the infantry battalions to Namibia by D-Day, 1 April, as originally envisaged in the Settlement Plan. Under the revised plan, they were due to be deployed in late April/early May. The events of early April, however, led to an acceleration of this deployment by approximately two weeks. The Finnish battalion was deployed in the north-eastern part of the Territory by 17 April; the Malaysian battalion in the north-west by 1 May; and the Kenyan battalion in the centre and south, also by 1 May. All three battalions remained in Namibia until after independence, with the Finnish and Malaysian battalions leaving in early April 1990. The incoming Government asked Kenya to retain its battalion in Namibia after independence, under bilateral arrangements, for an initial period of three months, in order to fulfil various tasks, including helping with the training of a Namibian army.

As already noted, the logistics elements in UNTAG's military component worked closely with the civilian logistics elements to provide an integrated logistics support system for the whole operation. The military units consisted of: a signals unit (United Kingdom); an engineer squadron (Australia); an administrative company, including movement control and postal elements (Denmark); supply, transport and maintenance units (Canada and Poland, plus civilian personnel provided by the Federal Republic of Germany); a helicopter squadron (Italy); and a squadron of light transport aircraft (Spain). The military component also included a civilian medical unit contributed by Switzerland. In addition, the Soviet Union and the United States provided air transport for the initial deployment of UNTAG.

For the same reason that applied to the infantry battalions, the deployment of the logistics units was not completed before D-Day. Indeed most of them had little more than advance parties in Namibia at that time and most became fully operational only in late April or early May.


When the Special Representative arrived in Windhoek on 31 March 1989 to assume his duties in Namibia, hopes were high. What had seemed an interminable process of negotiation was at last to bear fruit and Namibia's independence seemed in sight. There was concern, of course, that - for the reasons already mentioned, which were beyond the Secretary-General's control - UNTAG would be far from fully deployed on D-Day and would become completely operational only a month or more later. It was recognized that this made it even more essential that all concerned should honour the commitments which they had entered into regarding all aspects of the Settlement Plan. But an informal ceasefire had been in effect, and largely respected, for over seven months and the parties had just reaffirmed in writing their acceptance of a formal ceasefire with effect from 0600 local time on the morning of 1 April.

The previous evening, however, the newly arrived Special Representative was told by the South African Administrator-General that heavily armed SWAPO forces, in combat uniform, had begun moving forward and crossing from Angola into Namibia, many others being poised to follow.

The following morning, while demonstrations and processions of welcome for UNTAG were occurring throughout the Territory, the Administrator-General told the Special Representative that further armed SWAPO personnel had crossed the border overnight and incidents were occurring on a broad front throughout the Ovambo area of northern Namibia. A series of similar reports came in during the day, indicating military action and casualties on a scale not seen for many years in the Namibian conflict. The Special Representative sent a team of senior UNTAG officials north to investigate. As already noted, UNTAG was not yet effectively deployed in the Territory. Apart from the military observers and monitors, few personnel, military or civilian, had arrived and their operational capability was severely hampered by the lack of vehicles and communications.

Later on 1 April, the South African Foreign Minister told the Secretary-General that if UNTAG was unable to contain the new situation, it would be necessary for his Government again to deploy its military forces which had, earlier that day, been confined to base under UNTAG monitoring in accordance with the Settlement Proposal; the South West Africa Police were unable to deal with the incursion by heavily armed SWAPO groups. The Secretary-General immediately requested SWAPO representatives to do whatever they could to affect the situation positively.

Given all these circumstances, the Special Representative and the Force Commander sent to the Secretary-General an urgent joint recommendation that they be authorized to accept a strictly limited and temporary suspension of the SADF confinement to base. This recommendation was accepted. The arrangement under which this was to occur was in the following terms: "Certain specified units, to be agreed, will be released from restriction to base to provide such support as may be needed by the existing police forces, in case they cannot handle the situation by themselves. The situation will be kept under constant review and the movement out of existing bases will throughout be monitored by UNTAG military observers.

The team of UNTAG officials sent to the north held discussions on 2 April with the South African security forces and interviewed two SWAPO prisoners captured the previous day. The latter said that they had been instructed by their commanders in Angola to enter Namibia, avoiding the South African security forces if possible, in order to establish bases in Namibia under United Nations supervision. Their units were to bring with them all their arms, including rockets and anti-aircraft devices.

In the light of the wide difference between the stated objectives of the captives, who had impressed the UNTAG team with their credibility, and those attributed to them by the South African security forces, who saw their intention as aggressive and hostile, the team immediately requested to see all the general staff of the South African security forces who were then present at Oshakati, together with a senior representative of the South African Foreign Ministry. The team emphasized the immense gravity of the situation and the serious disparity between the two versions of events. They stressed, in unambiguous language, the imperative need for maximum restraint by the security forces, while immediate efforts were made in all quarters to resolve the situation. In Windhoek, the Special Representative and Force Commander impressed the same message on the Administrator-General and his senior police and military personnel.

On 2 April, SWAPO emphatically denied that it had violated the ceasefire and stated that it was committed to honouring it in spirit and letter. On the contrary, SWAPO said, South African security forces had attacked its members who had been peacefully celebrating the beginning of the implementation of resolution 435 in northern Namibia and some of whom had been trying to come forward to hand over their weapons to UNTAG. South Africa, for its part, asserted that the incursion of heavily armed and uniformed SWAPO forces was continuing.

The Secretary-General reported on these grave developments to the Security Council in informal consultations on 3 April. He concluded his report as follows:

"The mounting toll of Namibian and South African casualties, at the very moment when the long-delayed independence process has at last commenced, is especially tragic. On the basis of information so far available to it, UNTAG is of the view that SWAPO had infiltrated armed personnel and material into Namibia around the time of the ceasefire. UNTAG, however, feels that this infiltration may not have offensive intent, but instead may be aimed at the establishment of SWAPO camps inside the Territory, which SWAPO would then request UNTAG to monitor. SWAPO, for its part, has emphatically denied any infiltration and has stated that its supporters inside Namibia have been attacked. If the integrity of the Settlement Proposal, which took many years of difficult negotiation to conclude, is not respected by any party, then the people of Namibia will again be the principal sufferers. It is therefore most necessary for all concerned to exercise the maximum restraint at this time, and to advance and reinforce practical arrangements to implement each and every aspect of the Settlement Plan. This is a matter of the greatest political and humanitarian urgency, in view of the grave situation now existing along parts of the northern border of Namibia".

On 4 April, the South African Foreign Minister wrote to the Secretary-General stating, inter alia, that more than 1,000 SWAPO armed forces had now infiltrated Namibia, and that major mechanized, tank and infantry elements of SWAPO had been deployed just north of the Namibian/Angolan border. Unless, he said, active and effective measures were taken to stem the rapid deterioration of the situation, the whole peace process in Namibia was in danger of collapse. On 5 April, he informed the Secretary-General that the South African authorities were appealing by radio to SWAPO forces to return to Angola, and offering them safe conduct to locations north of the 16th parallel where, he said, it had been agreed, in the context of the Joint Commission agreements, that they would be confined.

On 5 April, the Secretary-General put proposals to South Africa and SWAPO for a ceasefire and the establishment of temporary assembly points under UNTAG supervision to which SWAPO armed personnel could report. They could then choose between being escorted across the border and to the north of the 16th parallel, with their arms, or handing over their weapons to UNTAG and returning as unarmed civilians to their homes in Namibia. If these proposals were accepted, South African security units would be required, 48 hours after the restoration of the ceasefire, to return to their bases under United Nations monitoring.

The Secretary-General communicated his proposals also to President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Chairman of the front-line States. Following an emergency summit of the front-line States in Luanda on 6 April, President Kaunda informed the Secretary-General that the summit had accepted his proposals, but wished that the SWAPO forces, having handed over their arms to UNTAG, should remain at the assembly points until the SWAPO leadership returned to Namibia.

On 7 April, the Secretary-General again reported to the Security Council. Fighting was continuing, he said, and well over 200 persons had already been killed. Every effort was being made to expedite the arrival and deployment of UNTAG personnel throughout the Territory; members of the Council had offered fresh transport and logistics support to help to bring UNTAG rapidly up to operational strength. The Secretary-General went on to describe the ceasefire proposals which he had put forward.

On 8 April, South Africa rejected the Secretary-General's proposals, which, it said, would be incompatible with the existing agreements. South Africa stated that it would respect all related agreements and that it would be impossible to complete the peace process unless all other parties did the same.

Also on 8 April, Mr. Sam Nujoma, the President of SWAPO, announced that the SWAPO leadership had decided to order its forces within Namibia to stop fighting, regroup and report to Angola within 72 hours under the escort of UNTAG.

Meanwhile, the Joint Commission established by the Brazzaville Protocol met in extraordinary session at Mount Etjo, in central Namibia, on 8 and 9 April. Angola, Cuba and South Africa attended, as did the United States and the Soviet Union, as observers. The Special Representative and the Administrator-General attended by invitation on 9 April. At the conclusion of the meeting, the parties adopted a Declaration of re-commitment to all aspects of the peace process, and urged the Secretary-General urgently to take all necessary measures for the most rapid and complete deployment of UNTAG so that it could fully and effectively carry out its mandate. In an annex to the Declaration, detailed agreement between the parties was recorded on Principles for a withdrawal procedure, and on a sequence of events for the implementation of the Declaration and Principles. These also were signed by the three Governments, having been agreed upon by all others in attendance at the meeting.

The withdrawal procedure was to be conducted under UNTAG supervision. SWAPO forces in Namibia were to present themselves at assembly points for safe passage to locations in Angola north of the 16th parallel. There they were to turn their arms over to UNTAG. They were to be informed of this process in local radio broadcasts in which a joint appeal by the Special Representative and the Administrator-General would be made. At the end of the process, and after information provided by SWAPO and joint verification by the Administrator-General and the Special Representative of the exit of all SWAPO forces from Namibian territory, the status quo ante 1 April would be deemed to have been reinstated. The parties, in agreeing to these provisions, further stated that they had taken note of the SWAPO announcement of 8 April.

On 9 April, the Secretary-General expressed his welcome for Mr. Nujoma's statement and the Mount Etjo Declaration; he believed that, in the light of these developments, the restoration of the ceasefire in Namibia would be facilitated, together with the process of implementing resolution 435. The next day, the Secretary-General again briefed the Security Council, expressing the hope that there would shortly be an end to the intense suffering and casualties that had scarred the start of UNTAG's work.

The Mount Etjo Declaration was an important step forward but it was not implemented in the manner envisaged. UNTAG found it impossible to persuade the South African security forces to keep their distance from the temporary assembly points. Perhaps as a result of this factor, among others, the SWAPO forces in Namibia chose to avoid them and only a handful, mostly sick or wounded, presented themselves for safe passage back to Angola. The vast majority preferred to make their own way across the border, without UNTAG protection. Unfortunately, a number of clashes occurred during this process. In a further meeting in northern Namibia on 20 April, the Joint Commission decided that in order to facilitate the return of SWAPO forces to Angola, all South African security forces would return to base for a period of 60 hours from 1800 hours local time on 26 April.

There was a further meeting of the Joint Commission in Cape Town, South Africa, from 27 to 29 April, about which the Secretary-General reported to the Security Council on 4 May. He said that he had asked the members of the Commission to ensure that the views of the United Nations were fully heard before the Commission adopted any decisions which would require action by UNTAG or otherwise affect the implementation of resolution 435. However, when the United Nations representatives were invited to join the Commission meetings, it was announced that certain agreements had already been arrived at, the main point being that for a two-week period, ending at 0600 hours local time on 13 May, the South African security forces would again be released from restriction in order to verify that SWAPO armed personnel had returned to Angola and to locate and lift arms caches. The Secretary-General told the Security Council that he would have preferred the outcome to have been a decision requiring that the restriction of South African security forces to their bases should continue without interruption. Regrettably, that had not been the case. He urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint, underlining the imperative need for SWAPO personnel to be given safe passage to the Angolan border.

In a further meeting of the Joint Commission at Cahama, Angola, on 19 May, the members noted the "positive steps" each had taken to fulfil its duties under the Mount Etjo agreement, as well as information provided by UNTAG that SWAPO forces were now confined to base under UNTAG monitoring north of the 16th parallel. The Special Representative and the Administrator-General confirmed that South African forces also had again been confined to base under UNTAG monitoring, with effect from 13 May, and that a de facto cessation of hostilities had been re-established in northern Namibia.

Meanwhile, the returning SWAPO forces and any others present on Angolan territory south of the 16th parallel had concentrated at Chibemba, south of Lubango, where their confinement to base by the Angolan armed forces was monitored by military officers of UNTAG (Angola). The SWAPO forces were later moved to bases closer to Lubango. These arrangements continued until the personnel concerned returned to Namibia as civilians under the repatriation programme described below.

Implementation of parts of the Settlement Proposal, which allowed a period of only seven months between D-Day and the elections, was now six weeks behind schedule. The intensity of the fighting revived the mistrust and division which had begun to be assuaged during the seven months of de facto ceasefire. UNTAG had been criticized in many quarters and its task of establishing its moral and political authority had been made more difficult. Between 300 and 400 combatants, mostly on the SWAPO side, had been killed. The counter-insurgency police, Koevoet, had been remobilized, and there would be much pain and tribulation before they were once again neutralized. It had been a nightmare beginning to an operation which had been launched with so much hope.


By mid-May the crisis created by the events of early April had been very largely resolved. UNTAG had also, by then, received most of its personnel, who had been deployed, or were in the process of being deployed, to their nearly 200 duty stations throughout the Territory. UNTAG had also received much, but still not all, of the equipment - vehicles, communications, accommodation - which it so sorely needed. It was thus able to get quickly into its stride in fulfilling the manifold functions assigned to it by the Security Council. These are described in this section.

Creating the political conditions for free and fair elections

As already noted, UNTAG was an essentially political operation whose central function was to create the conditions for free and fair elections to be held in Namibia, a Territory which had endured more than a hundred years of colonial rule and had had no previous experience of such elections. All UNTAG's activities were designed to serve this central function; all were subordinate to it. Implementation of the plan was supposed to begin on D-Day with the formal ceasefire and the confinement to base of South African and SWAPO forces. As described in the previous section, this situation was not, in the event, achieved until mid-May. Once it was achieved, the way was clear for UNTAG to start work on the practical measures which had to be taken, in less than six months, to create the political conditions for free and fair elections.

The South African military structure in Namibia had to be dismantled and the confinement of SWAPO forces to base in Angola monitored. The South West Africa Police had to be brought under effective monitoring. Discriminatory and restrictive legislation had to be repealed, political prisoners and detainees released, an amnesty for returnees proclaimed, and the many thousands of Namibian exiles, including political leaders, had to be enabled to return.

All these matters required negotiations with the South African Administrator-General and sometimes with the South African Government itself. The negotiations were conducted by the Special Representative and his various specialist teams, though on important occasions they had to be pursued in New York by the Secretary-General personally. Although satisfactory solutions were always found in the end, the Administrator-General's initial positions were rarely acceptable to the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, and in some cases negotiations were protracted and difficult.

It was recognized that if this painful process of negotiation was to be completed with the rapidity demanded by the timetable in the Settlement Plan, the necessary political momentum would have to be created. External interest and pressure had an important part to play but it was also necessary to take full advantage of the enthusiasm and support of the Namibian people for the independence process and for UNTAG's role.

As they completed their deployment throughout the Territory, UNTAG personnel found that the Namibian people were, in many cases, perplexed about what was happening and what UNTAG actually was. As a result of many years of colonialism and apartheid, Namibia had a public information system which was geared to maintain this situation, with deeply partisan newspapers and a public broadcasting system prone to disinformation. UNTAG had to neutralize these processes and to provide Namibians with relevant and objective information.

The effort was led by UNTAG's information service which used radio, television, all kinds of visual materials and print, as well as the traditional word-of-mouth. UNTAG's 42 political offices focused initially upon the need to reach out to all the people in their areas to tell them what was happening and what UNTAG was. They targeted local opinion-formers, often the churches, the farmers, the unions or political parties, or made direct contact with the people, often addressing gatherings under trees after church services. Information proved to be one of the key elements in UNTAG's operation; by the end, more than 200 radio broadcasts (usually translated into the country's many languages), 32 television programmes, and more than 590,000 separate information items had been produced.

The return of refugees, which began in mid-June 1989, gave a special boost to the process of informing the people about the independence process and about UNTAG's role. Quite suddenly, and shown in all the media, thousands of Namibians began to come home. By late June all but 1,500 of the South African troops had left Namibia and the local forces established by South Africa had been demobilized, all under the monitoring of UNTAG. Shortly after that, the law governing registration for the elections received the Special Representative's approval, and the process of registration began all over the country.

In late July, the political momentum accelerated further when the Secretary-General visited Namibia and travelled to many parts to see for himself how matters were proceeding. He convened at UNTAG headquarters a meeting of the leaders of all the parties which intended to contest the election. They had never met before in a single room. His message to them was that they should now unite, as Namibians, to build the new nation. He suggested they meet regularly, from then on, under his Special Representative's chairmanship, to iron out problems and begin a continuing and effective dialogue.

Thus was planted the seed of a political Code of Conduct which was then negotiated by the Special Representative with the party leaders and was followed by the parties during the pre-election campaigning, as well as during and after the elections. It laid down the ground rules for political conduct in a country which had never before enjoyed free and fair elections. It was essentially self-policing and self-enforcing and the parties undertook to publicize it by all available means, as did the Special Representative. In his report to the Security Council of 6 October 1989, the Secretary-General described it as a document of "central importance. It gives reason to hope that the parties will conduct the election campaign in a truly democratic manner, that (despite some recent ugly incidents) they will ensure that their supporters do likewise and that they will all accept the outcome of the election. It is no exaggeration to say that Namibia's ability to make a peaceful and prosperous transition to independence will to a large extent depend upon the manner in which the political parties honour those pledges".

UNTAG made the fullest use of the Code, utilizing all its information techniques. Regular meetings were held with political leaders at all levels, and at each UNTAG regional and district centre, to deal with problems that had arisen and to pre-empt others before they could arise.

The Secretary-General's words became a reality, and the last month of the election campaign, which could have been marked by intimidation and disruption, instead saw an increasing tranquillity, with the elections themselves occurring in conditions of great serenity throughout the Territory.

The election legislation proposed by the Administrator-General again required arduous negotiations between teams led by the Special Representative and the Administrator-General, with frequent interventions from New York by the Secretary-General. Agreement on 6 October led to an intensive preparatory period in which election personnel were trained and a voter education campaign was conducted by UNTAG, by the Administrator-General, and by the political parties. Despite the much-criticized delays in the promulgation of the electoral legislation, the determination of the people of the country to decide their political destiny was made clear during the elections which took place from 7 to 11 November. More than 97 per cent of the registered electorate voted, with only a tiny percentage of spoilt ballots.

Throughout this political process, a helpful role was played by a Joint Working Group on All Aspects of Impartiality, which had been established in May 1989. Delegations from the Administrator-General's office and from that of the Special Representative dealt with the political problems arising from the day-to-day coexistence of the colonial Power and UNTAG. Allegations of minor misconduct by members of one or the other side, the bias of the broadcasting authorities, limitations on political activities by local public employees, allegations of prejudice in the control of public meetings, etc., were typical agenda items. Meeting weekly under alternating chairmanship, the Group successfully resolved many of the lesser problems that inevitably arose in, especially, the first months of the transition period, and usually managed to prevent them from becoming major bones of contention at the higher political levels.

Monitoring the dismantling of the South African military presence and the confinement of SWAPO forces

As already described, the ceasefire and confinement of forces to base which were supposed to come into effect on 1 April were not fully restored until 13 May. The next step was the dismantling of the South African military presence in Namibia, through the withdrawal of almost all the SADF personnel and their equipment and the demobilization of the local military forces established by South Africa, namely the South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF, otherwise known as the "ethnic forces", the "citizen forces" and the "commandos".

Under the Plan, SADF strength was to be reduced to 1,500 all ranks, confined to base at Grootfontein and Oshivelo, by D-Day plus 12 weeks, i.e., 24 June. In spite of the hostilities of early April, which interrupted the planned SADF withdrawal, the reduction to 1,500 was achieved by 24 June, as required. Throughout the process, UNTAG officers monitored the bases and the withdrawal. The remaining 1,500, known as "the Merlyn Force", were withdrawn one week after the certification of the elections, on 21 November.

A number of other SADF personnel remained in Namibia fulfilling civilian functions. They too were monitored by UNTAG military officers. In early October, they totalled 796, of whom about two thirds were engaged in running airfields, with many of the remainder providing medical services to the population in the north. These arrangements, while in accordance with the Settlement Plan, caused some concern in the Security Council and other quarters because of the numbers of SADF personnel involved. Substantial and successful efforts were accordingly made by the Special Representative to find appropriate civilian replacements for these personnel inside Namibia and from other sources in the United Nations system, e.g., the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization.

Of greater concern to the Security Council was the "civilianization" of other SADF personnel, some of them very senior, who were then assigned to the Administrator-General's office as a "Department of Defence Administration". Their functions included making bimonthly payments to former members of SWATF, who remained on the South African payroll until independence. Here, too, UNTAG pressed for, and gradually achieved, a substantial reduction in the numbers involved.

As regards the local forces established by South Africa, the "citizen forces" and "commandos", which were essentially part-time forces numbering 11,578 all ranks, had been demobilized before D-Day and their arms, military equipment and ammunition had been deposited in drill halls which were guarded by personnel from the UNTAG infantry battalions as soon as they arrived in the Territory. Some of the "citizen forces" and "commandos" were reactivated as a result of the events of early April, but by the end of May they had again been demobilized.

The most important element in the local forces, however, was SWATF, which numbered 21,661 all ranks on D-Day, most of the officers being on secondment from SADF. Their demobilization was completed by 1 June 1989, by which time all their arms, ammunition and military equipment had been deposited in drill halls where they were guarded by UNTAG infantry elements, the whole process having been closely monitored by UNTAG military monitors. However, the majority of the demobilized personnel retained their uniforms and, until after the elections, reported twice monthly to their erstwhile headquarters to receive their pay, in most cases from officers who had previously commanded them. This arrangement caused considerable concern to the Secretary-General and to the Security Council as being inconsistent with the requirement in the Settlement Plan that the command structures of SWATF should be dismantled. This remained a contentious issue between the Special Representative and the Administrator-General until after the elections.

Concerns were also expressed over the arrangements for the personnel of the two bushman battalions of SWATF. Unlike the other ex-members of SWATF, who could return to their places of origin after demobilization, the bushmen would have had no means of livelihood if sent away from their existing camps in the northern part of the Territory, where they had for many years lived with their families. All concerned sought a viable and humanitarian solution to this problem, but it was not possible to find a solution before UNTAG's mandate ended with the achievement of Namibia's independence.

Under the Settlement Plan, the military component of UNTAG was also required to monitor the cessation of hostile acts by all parties and to keep Namibia's borders under surveillance and prevent infiltration. As regards Namibia's border with South Africa, this task was entrusted to UNTAG's military observers, who established permanently manned checkpoints at all crossing-points from South Africa and patrolled regularly along the border. Similar arrangements were established around the enclave of Walvis Bay, where South Africa maintained an appreciable military presence after the reduction and eventual withdrawal of SADF from Namibia. The northern border presented a more difficult problem because of its extent, the presence of dense and closely related populations on both sides of the border and, as described below, repeated allegations of impending infiltration. The Finnish and Malaysian battalions accordingly mounted daily patrols along the border, a task in which they were assisted from time to time by the military monitors and by CIVPOL, who routinely accompanied SWAPOL on their own border patrols. The two infantry battalions, as well as the Kenyan battalion in the centre and the south, also undertook regular patrols in populated areas in order to advertise UNTAG's presence and give people the opportunity to raise with UNTAG their security concerns. This task also was, of course, shared with the military monitors and with CIVPOL who, as will be described, had the most important part to play in this context.

Throughout the period leading up to the elections, UNTAG had to address repeated allegations, mostly deriving from South African security sources, of imminent invasion of the north by SWAPO forces. It was asserted, on a number of occasions, that concentrations of armed SWAPO personnel were present in southern Angola, close to the Namibian border. These allegations were rejected by Angola and SWAPO. UNTAG's Angola-based monitors patrolled the areas and found no evidence to support them. The allegations nevertheless continued, even after almost all SWAPO forces had returned from Angola to Namibia as civilians to take part in the elections.

The persistence of these allegations caused the Joint Commission, which continued to meet throughout the transition period, to establish a Joint Intelligence Committee to look into all allegations of potential breaches of the basic agreements relating to the Angolan-Namibian border. This Committee, in turn, established a Verification Mechanism, which was empowered to investigate reports on the ground. UNTAG participated in these processes, its contribution being of particular importance because of its presence on the ground and the communications and other logistics support which it could provide.

The allegations nevertheless continued and culminated, a few days before the elections, in a claim by South Africa, on the basis of supposedly intercepted messages between UNTAG units, that an imminent incursion into Namibia by SWAPO forces had been verified by UNTAG military personnel. An investigation by the Special Representative of the transcripts of the alleged messages showed, rapidly and conclusively, that they were fraudulent and did not come from any UNTAG source. The South African Foreign Minister publicly withdrew the charges 48 hours later. This was the final episode in what had appeared to be a campaign by certain quarters to disrupt the independence process through disinformation and other, more direct, means, including an attack on UNTAG's regional office in Outjo, in which a local employee was killed, and a political assassination.

Monitoring the South West Africa Police

Following the confinement to base of the South African military forces and their subsequent return to South Africa or demobilization, the only South African - controlled security forces remaining in the Territory were to be the South West Africa Police. The Settlement Plan had recognized that if conditions were to be created for the conduct of free and fair elections, without fear of intimidation from any quarter, it was essential that SWAPOL should fulfil its duty of maintaining law and order in an efficient, professional and non-partisan way. This in practice meant that SWAPOL had to change attitudes and practices which it had developed during the long years of war in the Territory. CIVPOL, as the police element of UNTAG was known, thus had a critical role to perform, a role which, as already indicated, required the Secretary-General, with the consent of the Security Council, to increase its strength from the originally envisaged 360 to a final total of 1,500.

CIVPOL could only carry out its monitoring function with the cooperation of SWAPOL itself. This was not readily provided, though the situation steadily improved during the transitional period. Cooperation was least effective in the north, the scene of former guerrilla warfare, especially in the early months of the mandate. CIVPOL also encountered major problems over the activities of the Koevoet counter-insurgency element in SWAPOL and the Security branch of SWAPOL. This problem of limited cooperation was the principal reason for the need to increase the strength of CIVPOL.

In fulfilment of its primary function of monitoring SWAPOL, CIVPOL accompanied SWAPOL on its patrols. Its ability to do so, however, depended on the necessary cooperation from SWAPOL, which was not always forthcoming, and, in the north, on the availability to UNTAG of mine-resistant vehicles, which was a problem at the beginning of the mission for both CIVPOL and the military component. CIVPOL also monitored SWAPOL's conduct of its investigations, its attendance at political rallies, and its presence during the registration and electoral processes. In principle, responsibility for the maintenance of law and order remained with the Administrator-General, and CIVPOL had no direct authority in this regard. It had no powers of arrest and could influence the standard of policing only indirectly. As the mission progressed, however, CIVPOL's role became more and more influential. CIVPOL was frequently present, and SWAPOL absent, from political gatherings, and CIVPOL often patrolled on its own, meeting the people and reassuring them by its presence.

The problem of monitoring the security police was never fully resolved. Nor was the Special Representative ever fully satisfied with CIVPOL's ability to investigate the many complaints made by the public about SWAPOL's activities, though this did greatly improve during the mission.

The Koevoet issue was one of the most difficult UNTAG had to face. This counter-insurgency unit, whose name means "crowbar" in Afrikaans, was formed by South Africa after the adoption of resolution 435, and was not, therefore, mentioned in the Settlement Proposal or related documents. Once Koevoet's role had become clear, the Secretary-General consistently took the position that it was a paramilitary unit and should therefore be disbanded, like other paramilitary units, upon implementation of the Settlement Proposal. About 2,000 of its members had been absorbed into SWAPOL before 1 April 1989, but they reverted to their former role against SWAPO in the events of early April, before once again being incorporated into SWAPOL in mid-May. The ex-Koevoet personnel, however, continued to operate as if they were a counter-insurgency unit, travelling around the north in armoured and heavily armed convoys, and habitually behaving in a violent, disruptive and intimidating manner. In June 1989, the Special Representative told the Administrator-General that this behaviour was totally inconsistent with the Settlement Proposal, which required the police to be lightly armed. Moreover, the vast majority of the ex-Koevoet personnel were quite unsuited for continued employment in the police forces, and this also was incompatible with the Settlement Plan. Unless the problem was dealt with, he would have no option but to halt the transition process.

There ensued a difficult process of negotiation with the South African Government, which continued for two months. The Secretary-General pressed for the removal of all ex-Koevoet elements from SWAPOL and the Special Representative brought to the Administrator-General's attention many complaints of misconduct by them. This was one of the main issues pursued by the Secretary-General during his visit to Namibia in July 1989. The Security Council, in its resolution 640 (1989) of 29 August, demanded the disbandment of Koevoet and the dismantling of its command structures. The Administrator-General, on the other hand, contended that there were repeated indications from his security personnel of imminent armed incursions by SWAPO and that it was necessary for him to maintain a counter-insurgency element in readiness. He also insisted that the Koevoet personnel were in fact trained policemen.

After continuing pressure by the United Nations on the South African authorities, the South African Foreign Minister announced on 28 September 1989 that some 1,200 ex-Koevoet members of SWAPOL would be demobilized with effect from the following day. A further 400 such personnel were demobilized on 30 October. These demobilizations were supervised by UNTAG military monitors.

This did not entirely eradicate the problem, as the demobilized personnel, fully paid until independence, were free to roam the sensitive and highly populated areas near the northern border. But CIVPOL was gradually able to contain the new situation, and, despite some ugly incidents, the political and electoral process in the northern areas continued with increasing tranquillity. As the United Nations had frequently emphasized, Koevoet personnel were a major part of the problem of law and order, rather than making, as was claimed, a contribution to its resolution.

Repeal of discriminatory laws, amnesty, release of prisoners and detainees

Preliminary discussions with South African officials about the repeal of discriminatory or restrictive laws which might abridge or inhibit the holding of free and fair elections in Namibia had begun, before implementation, in New York and Windhoek. Negotiations resumed in Windhoek, and in June 1989 a first tranche of legislation was repealed or substantially amended, followed by a second, more limited repeal. In all, 56 pieces of legislation were affected, among them some of the most conspicuous legal instruments of colonial repression and apartheid, though various "interim" governments in Namibia had already repealed much of the openly racist legislation that had accumulated there over the years. The first repeal proclamation also made provision for further repeals at the request of the public, although no member of the public in fact took advantage of this provision.

Particular controversy between the United Nations and the South African authorities arose over the law known as AG-8, which provided for a system of ethnic administration. This law was not repealed during the transition period, although its potentially disruptive effects were largely dissipated by other means. The Administrator-General took the position that the law fell outside the ambit of the Settlement Plan as it did not abridge or inhibit the holding of free and fair elections. He asserted that its repeal during the transition period would entail a complete reconstruction of local administration, and that there were neither the resources nor the time to do this. In fact, few complaints were received by the Special Representative concerning discriminatory or restrictive laws after promulgation of the two repeal proclamations, although SWAPO and many foreign non-governmental organizations continued to emphasize the political unacceptability of AG-8, a position which was also consistently maintained by the Secretary-General and UNTAG.

The grant of a full and unqualified amnesty to all Namibian exiles was an essential prerequisite for their voluntary repatriation under the Settlement Plan. The scope of such an amnesty had been one of the most difficult areas of discussion between the United Nations and South Africa in the years following the adoption of resolution 435. South Africa sought to distinguish between Namibians accused or convicted of political crimes and those accused of common-law crimes. For reasons of principle and practicality, this could not be accepted by the United Nations, and, after implementation began, negotiations continued in Windhoek and New York on the subject. South Africa finally accepted the need for an unqualified amnesty, and the Amnesty Proclamation was promulgated on 6 June 1989, thus permitting implementation of the programme of repatriation, which had been delayed pending a satisfactory outcome. Each returnee received notice of amnesty as he or she re-entered Namibia.

The Settlement Plan required the release of all Namibian political prisoners and detainees. Immediately after implementation had begun, the Special Representative wrote to South Africa, SWAPO, Angola and Zambia, conveying lists of names of persons reported to have been detained or imprisoned. These had been forwarded to him by a number of non-governmental organizations which had been following the course of events in and relating to Namibia. The Special Representative inquired of the various parties whether they might have knowledge of such persons, who were alleged to have been, at one time or another, detained or imprisoned by their authorities or on their territory.

On 24 May 1989, UNTAG military monitors in Angola interviewed about 200 former detainees who had been released by SWAPO. These persons, and a number of others released by SWAPO, were duly repatriated. Meanwhile, discussions had taken place between the Special Representative and the Administrator-General regarding persons imprisoned or detained by the South African authorities. A number of disputed cases were referred to the Independent Jurist, Professor Nörgaard, and he advised upon them on 19 June 1989. Both the Special Representative and the Administrator-General accepted the Independent Jurist's advice, and 25 former political prisoners were consequently released on 20 July 1989. A number of other disputed cases were referred to the Independent Jurist during the remainder of the mission and, in each instance, his advice was followed and acted upon by UNTAG and South Africa.

However, it was persistently alleged, by both South Africa and SWAPO, that additional prisoners remained in detention and should have been released. In particular, allegations that prisoners remained in SWAPO hands became a major issue in the Namibian electoral campaign. For South Africa, the Administrator-General insisted that all persons on the lists submitted to him either had been released or were unknown to the South African authorities. As for SWAPO, it stated that it no longer held any detainees, and invited the international community to investigate allegations to the contrary.

For his part, the Special Representative sought to detach fact from allegation, and to produce, as accurately as possible, a verifiable list of Namibians who were missing or otherwise unaccounted for. He decided to send a mission to Angola and Zambia, with the cooperation of those Governments and of SWAPO, to look into the question. The mission spent several weeks during September 1989 visiting sites and seeking to check allegations. It found that no persons were detained at any of the reported locations. As a result of the information it obtained, and subsequently followed up, it was able to reduce an initial list of persons unaccounted for from 1,100 to 315. UNTAG continued to seek and obtain information on this question for the rest of its mandate. Many revisions of detail were made, and the data were subsequently refined, but the overall picture remained the same. The question of missing persons turned out to be one of the most divisive and emotionally charged issues that confronted UNTAG during its time in Namibia.

Return of refugees

The Settlement Plan required that all exiled Namibians be given the opportunity to return to their country in time to participate fully in the political and electoral process. Implementation was entrusted to UNHCR, although the operation formed part of the overall resolution 435 process of transition to independence. A number of other United Nations agencies and programmes contributed to the repatriation programme: the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In Namibia, the Council of Churches in Namibia was UNHCR's implementing partner.

The great majority of returning Namibians came back from Angola, with smaller but significant numbers from Zambia. Altogether, returnees came from 46 countries, requiring a coordinated effort by UNHCR offices worldwide.

A massive airlift began in June, following proclamation of the general amnesty. Three air and three land entry points, as well as five reception centres, were established in northern and central Namibia to receive and register returnees and provide them with material assistance. Security at the reception centres was provided by the military component of UNTAG. A series of secondary reception centres was also established, but movement by returnees through the centres was, on the whole, brisk, due in large part to the assistance provided and to the resilient Namibian family structure which rapidly reabsorbed the exiles. The process of reintegration and rehabilitation was handled on an inter-agency basis, with special reference to questions of shelter, agriculture, water, health, education, income generation and family support.

The repatriation programme was conducted smoothly. The psychological impact of the return of so many exiles was perceptible throughout the country. Though various political issues were raised regarding one or another aspect of the repatriation process, its size, momentum and effectiveness helped to minimize political controversies. There were some problems in the north when ex-Koevoet elements searched villages for SWAPO returnees. This matter was kept under constant surveillance by UNTAG's police monitors, who in this area, as in others, played a valuable role in defusing local tensions and maintaining stability.

By the end of the process, 42,736 Namibians had been brought back from exile.

Registration and electoral supervision

All UNTAG's other functions were focused specifically upon the need to ensure that the whole electoral process, including registration, was transparently free and fair, so that Namibia could move to nationhood and independence through an impeccable act of self-determination. Though the electoral process was to be conducted by the South African Administrator-General, each and every element was to take place under the active supervision and control of the Special Representative and UNTAG. While the United Nations had previously participated as an observer in many final acts of decolonization, its role in Namibia was unique in terms of the degree of the Organization's involvement in the process of political change in the Territory and the central part played by UNTAG in that process.

Planning for the supervision and control of the electoral process had begun in the Special Representative's office immediately after the adoption of resolution 435 in 1978. As already mentioned, it had been decided well before implementation that a system of proportional representation would afford the most equitable and democratic means of ascertaining the popular will in the Namibian context.

As regards registration, a draft proclamation was published by the Administrator-General on 24 April 1989 for general information and comment. The Special Representative had desired that the fullest possible democratic consultation should take place prior to the finalization of the registration legislation. Many comments, often highly critical, were received on the draft and there ensued intensive negotiations between the Special Representative and the Administrator-General, which were closely directed by the Secretary-General from New York. On 26 June, the Special Representative indicated his consent to a much- amended Proclamation, which was duly issued.

The Special Representative's consent was conditional upon the Administrator-General's agreement to an exchange of letters which defined in detail UNTAG's role in the registration process. This contained, inter alia, the important provision that no application for registration could be rejected without the concurrence of an UNTAG official. Similar exchanges of letters were concluded between the Special Representative and the Administrator-General in connection with subsequent legislation concerning the other stages of the electoral process and the Constituent Assembly itself. They provided an important means of ensuring UNTAG's supervision and control of the election, in accordance with the Settlement Plan.

Registration began on 3 July and was originally scheduled to close on 15 September. However, the Special Representative requested that the period be extended to 23 September, so that all eligible voters would be given full opportunity to register, and this was done. The Proclamation identified the various categories of persons who would be qualified for registration. Anyone over the age of 18 could vote, if he or she was born in Namibia, or if they had been continuously resident there for four years, or if they were the child of a person born in Namibia. Provision was made for documentary or other proof of age and other qualifications. UNTAG's consent was required before a would-be registrant could be refused, and provision was made for appeals, and for the receipt of objections to registrations.

Seventy registration centres were established, together with 110 mobile registration teams which covered 2,200 points throughout the country. Each registration point was supervised by UNTAG officials, and CIVPOL was present at each location. The central register was also supervised by UNTAG computer experts, and a computerized list of registrants was made available on a weekly basis to all political parties. The number of registrants exceeded by 2.4 per cent the Administrator-General's projection of those likely to be qualified to register (701,483, as against 685,276). This confirmed UNTAG's assessment of the vast public enthusiasm for registration and the election generally.

As regards the election Proclamation, a draft was published by the Administrator-General on 21 July 1989, with a request for comments by the public within 21 days. The draft again evoked major criticisms from the public and from interested observers. The Secretary-General found it to be seriously deficient, and prolonged and difficult negotiations again ensued between the Special Representative and the Administrator-General. The Special Representative's legal staff was reinforced from New York, and the Secretary-General intervened personally at critical moments. The negotiations were not successfully concluded until 6 October. Prior to this, however, an agreed Proclamation was issued on the registration of political parties for the election. Ten parties registered. The electoral arrangements which were finally agreed and incorporated in the proclamation provided for elections on a nationwide basis (i.e., without constituencies) and for a dual system of ballots - ordinary and "tendered". Voters about whose registration or identity there was agreed to be some doubt would be required to use tendered ballots and to place them in a separate ballot box, such ballots being subject to a verification system. Voters would be expected to cast their ballots where they had registered; those who did not would be required to vote by tendered ballot.

Practical arrangements for the election were both complex and demanding, not only because of the terrain, but also because of language diversity, the unfamiliarity of many voters with the balloting procedure, the extensive measures taken to preclude fraudulent voting, and UNTAG's intensive supervision of each step. A total of 358 polling stations were established. The total number of United Nations personnel directly involved in the supervisory process was 1,758, including 885 specialist personnel made available by the Governments of 27 States. Three hundred and fifty-eight of the UNTAG personnel, acting as ballot-box supervisors, were drawn from the military component. The remaining electoral supervisors came from UNTAG's civilian component and the rest of the United Nations system. Additionally, 1,023 UNTAG police monitors were assigned to electoral duties.

All UNTAG election supervisory personnel were given specialist training. The process of voter education was inevitably delayed because of the difficult negotiations over the electoral law, which were not completed until one month before the elections. Once that had been agreed, however, a vigorous voter-education programme was carried out by UNTAG, by the Administrator-General and by the political parties. As the country moved towards elections, the atmosphere became increasingly peaceful, and the last weeks before the election saw a marked drop in allegations of intimidation.

While there had been many auspicious indications in the last weeks, and, indeed, UNTAG's whole strategy had aimed at this, few had anticipated the extraordinary response of the electorate. By the close of polling on 11 November, more than 97 per cent of the registered voters had voted in conditions of great tranquillity, and with memorable determination. In the first days, would-be voters formed peaceful lines, often more than a kilometre in length, sometimes queuing up during the cold nights before the polling stations opened, or for hours in the sun during the day. Apart from logistical problems in the north, caused by an unexpected avalanche of voters in the first days, voting proceeded calmly, and the Special Representative had no hesitation in announcing, shortly after the polls had closed, that he was fully satisfied that the voting process had been free and fair.

Ballot-counting began on 13 November at the 23 election district centres and in Windhoek. Final results were declared on the evening of 14 November. They showed that no party had received a two-thirds majority, but that SWAPO had obtained 41 of the Assembly's 72 seats, that its main opponent, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), had 21 seats and that five of the remaining eight parties had also obtained representation. A very small percentage of ballots (1.4 per cent) had been rejected as invalid. A few minutes later, after informing the Secretary-General, the Special Representative, speaking to the press and public from the steps of UNTAG headquarters in Windhoek, certified, in fulfilment of his responsibility under the Settlement Proposal, that the electoral process in Namibia had, at every stage, been free and fair, and that it had been conducted to his satisfaction. In his statement, Mr. Ahtisaari said: "Its youngest democracy has given the whole world a shining lesson in democracy, exemplary as to commitment, restraint and tolerance". In his own statement, the Secretary-General, after paying tribute to the role played in the elections by the voters, the political parties, the South African authorities and UNTAG, said: "Namibia must become a united nation where the inhabitants of all political persuasions will be able to enjoy their inalienable rights without fear or favour. These were the aims and objectives of the United Nations when, 43 years ago, the issue of Namibia first came before the General Assembly".


On 21 November 1989, the newly elected Constituent Assembly convened, in accordance with the Settlement Plan and with a Constituent Assembly Proclamation. The latter had been promulgated after the usual difficult negotiations with the Special Representative on a draft which, in its first form, was largely unacceptable to the Secretary-General. The Constituent Assembly quickly elected officials and proceeded, initially in committees, to draw up a Constitution. The Constitution was adopted by consensus on 9 February 1990. It provided for independence six weeks later, on 21 March 1990. In his report to the Security Council of 16 March 1990, the Secretary-General reported that the Constitution, which was annexed, was to enter into force on independence, and that it reflected the "Principles concerning the Constituent Assembly and the Constitution for an independent Namibia" adopted by all the parties concerned in 1982. The Special Representative had, as considered appropriate by the Assembly, made available his resources, when necessary, to assist in its deliberations and in the drafting of the Constitution.

In the period between the elections and independence, the Administrator-General remained responsible for the administration of the Territory, and his activities continued to be monitored by UNTAG and discussed as necessary with him by the Special Representative. After the elections, UNTAG closed some of its centres, and reduced staffing in others, and all were closed at independence. UNTAG's police monitors continued with their tasks until independence and there was no reduction in their strength until just before that time. Indeed, because of reductions in SWAPOL's manpower, after the elections, especially in the north, CIVPOL came to play an increasing role in maintaining calm and stability. Numerous exercises in reconciliation between various elements were undertaken by UNTAG, particularly in the Kavango, Caprivi and Ovambo regions, with no small success.

The military component of UNTAG was gradually wound down in the early months of 1990, with certain logistics elements, and many monitors and observers leaving during January and February. Meanwhile, however, a Tripartite Military Integration Committee was established, with UNTAG in the chair, to develop a concept for an integrated Namibian army. The Committee was to plan the integration of Namibian armed personnel who had fought on both sides of the war and develop a military structure for a future Namibian army. A team from the Kenyan battalion helped train the integrated nucleus of the new Namibian army, which participated in the independence ceremonies.

The independence ceremony, which took place just after midnight on 21 March, was attended by the Secretary-General, who administered the oath of office to President Sam Nujoma, in accordance with the terms of the Constitution, and by many leaders from around the world. In his final report to the Security Council, on 28 March 1990, the Secretary-General reported: "Thus was achieved, in dignity and with great rejoicing, the goal of independence for Namibia for which the United Nations and its Member States have striven for so long".


The UNTAG operation had many novel features and constituted an evolutionary step beyond the United Nations traditional role of peacekeeping and the monitoring of self-determination processes. This was because of the far-reaching mandate given to the Secretary-General by the Security Council. UNTAG's principal function was to create the conditions for the holding of free and fair elections. This meant that it was required to be, and was, deeply involved in the whole political process of Namibia's transition from illegally occupied colony to sovereign and independent State. UNTAG thus had to play its part in monitoring and implementing a ceasefire, the withdrawal and demobilization of troops, monitoring a local police force, managing a political "normalization" process, supervising and controlling the resultant elections and assisting the transition to independence. Because of the vast international interest in Namibia, a territory with a unique status under international law, each step was taken under a searchlight of public scrutiny and comment. The mandate made it one of the most political of United Nations operations, and the logistical dimensions, together with the strict timetable involved, caused it to be one of the most demanding, in practical terms, to be put in the field.

The foundation for the success of such operations remains, as ever, the full cooperation of the parties, the continuing support of the Security Council, and the timely provision of the necessary financial resources. If these are forthcoming, UNTAG showed how much the United Nations can achieve by making full use of all its resources, including the diverse skills, and the commitment, of its staff.

(c)United Nations


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