Who killed Clemens Kapuuo?
On Easter Monday 1978, Clemens Kapuuo, the paramount chief of the Ovaherero and leader of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in Windhoek. Although it never claimed credit for the assassination, the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) was blamed for the killing. Shortly thereafter, on Ascension Day, the largest military operation undertaken by South Africa since the Second World War, Operation Reindeer, was launched. South African forces attacked targets deep inside Angola and over 1,200 people were killed in a SWAPO camp that had been established at Kassinga. As justification for Operation Reindeer, the South African government referred to a number of incidents, of which the murder of Kapuuo was the most important. Based on a wide variety of archival, oral, and printed sources, the article seeks to situate the killing of Kapuuo. It traces the career of Kapuuo in conjunction with political developments within Namibia between 1971 and 1978. It demonstrates that throughout his political career, Clemens Kapuuo refused to compromise on a number of conditions relating to the political future of Namibia. In conclusion, the article argues that it is possible that Kapuuo was murdered by elements of the South African military intent on strengthening their hold on Namibia and South Africa at the time.
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