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'Henning Melber has provided us with the most substantial report on Namibia that we have had since the country became independent in 1990. A significant gap in scholarly knowledge has been filled.' - Stephen Ellis, Desmond Tutu Professor at the Free University, Amsterdam and author of External Mission: The ANC in Exile, 1960-1990 'An incisive tour de force by Namibia's most acute and engaged scholar activist.' - Roger Southall, Professor emeritus of the Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand and author of Liberation Movements in Power: Party and State in Southern Africa. Ahead of general elections, end-November 2014, and the celebration of 25 years of independence in March 2015, comes Henning Melber's Understanding Namibia, the book to analyse our northern neighbour's transformation since 1990. Since Independence, Namibia has witnessed only one generation with no memory of colonialism - the 'born frees', who voted in the 2009 elections. The anti-colonial liberation movement, SWAPO, dominates the political scene, effectively making Namibia a de facto one-party state dominated by the first 'struggle generation'. While those in power declare their support for a free, fair and just society, the limits to liberation are such that emancipation from foreign rule has only partially been achieved. Despite its natural resources, Namibia is among the world's most unequal societies and indicators of wellbeing have not markedly improved for many among the former colonised majority, despite a constitution enshrining human rights, social equality and individual liberty. This book analyses the transformation of Namibian society over the past 25 years. Melber explores the achievements and failures and contrasts the narrative of a post-colonial patriotic history with the socio-economic and political realities of the nationbuilding project. He also investigates whether, notwithstanding the relative stability prevailing to date, the negotiation of controlled change during Namibia's decolonisation could have achieved more than simply a change of those in control.
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