Along with Sam Nujoma, many refugees from the region sought out refuge in Tanzania.Young refugee child with a toy he made himself.
UNHCR/ J.Mohr/ 1968
Profession: President of Namibia
Country of Origin: Namibia
Country of Asylum: Tanzania, United Republic of
Date of birth: 29 May 1929
One of 10 children brought up by farmers, Sam Nujoma fought for the independence of his country from South Africa and was elected the first president of the new nation, Namibia, in 1990.
Born in a village in what was then known as South-West Africa, Nujoma eventually left for the capital, Windhoek, where he started working for South African Railways.
His political career began with the mobilisation of workers in towns in the area. In 1959, he was elected leader of the Owamboland People's Organisation, which subsequently became the South West Africa People's Organisation.
During this time, he petitioned the United Nations to free Namibia from South African rule. At that time, South-West Africa was controlled by the white minority apartheid government of South Africa, which refused to give up its mandate over South-West Africa and instead extended its repressive policies over the territory.
As Nujoma's political activities gained him international recognition, he was forced to go into exile on March 1, 1960. In 1962, having fled to Tanzania, he took control of the new South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO). In 1966, his UN-recognised liberation force began attacking South-West Africa. After more than 20 years of fighting and diplomatic negotiations, Nujoma was able to return from exile and to a hero's welcome. He led his country to independence in 1990 and was subsequently elected president.
Nujoma has been praised for establishing good race relations and respect for the rule of law in Namibia. "While in exile, whether in Africa or beyond, I always dreamed about Namibian independence, which finally came true," he says. "But independence is not an end in itself. We have had to develop our country, restore democratic rule, create jobs and redistribute the nation's wealth, held by a tiny minority, all the while taking care to further national reconciliation."
Nujoma was overwhelmingly re-elected in 1994. He and his party SWAPO went on to win a landslide victory in the 1999 elections, with Nujoma taking 77 percent of the presidential vote.