Walvis Bay: Decolonization And International Law

In This Review

Walvis Bay: Decolonization And International Law

By Lynn Berat
Yale University Press, 1990
219 pp. $25.00

Never given to discarding its diplomatic cards too hastily, Pretoria still holds many aces in the ongoing power game with its unfriendly neighbors. One such card is a claim to sovereignty over the Namibian port of Walvis Bay, aggressively asserted by South Africa since 1977 and based largely on the circumstances of the bay's annexation by Britain in 1878 and subsequent administration from the then-British Cape Colony. This well-argued book by a historian and specialist in international law examines in detail, and within its evolving historical context, the legal case for the South African claim. This is demonstrated to be weak, and the validity of the countercase put forward by the government of newly independent Namibia is shown to be almost incontestable. Whether the widely accepted principles of international law favoring the Namibian government can soon be translated into legal reality, however, is contingent on future political moves in the regional power game.

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