In This Review

The Transition to Independence in Namibia
The Transition to Independence in Namibia
By Lionel Cliffe and Others
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994, 293 pp

This thorough and informative election study is based on field observations by a team of British and African researchers led by Cliffe, a Leeds University political scientist. After retracing the decade and a half of war and diplomatic maneuvering that preceded Namibian independence in 1990, the book focuses on the pre-independence election of November 1989, and in particular on the performance of the United Nations as a political midwife of Namibia's new order. While judging that the conduct and outcome of the election would have been fairer had the United Nations rather than South Africa had ultimate administrative authority over the voting, the study credits the United Nations with generally making the best of a difficult situation. Much useful data is presented on the parties, issues, and voting results, as well as on the deliberations of the constituent assembly put in place by the election. Ironically, the book concludes, South Africa's anti-SWAPO machinations helped to foster favorable conditions for democracy in Namibia by forestalling a more decisive SWAPO victory that could have led to one-party rule.