Country report and updates: Namibia

Last revision: 04 Aoû 1998
04 Aoû 1998

1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

Namibia has never had conscription since achieving independence in 1990. [4]

Apparently, when becoming independent, it was planned to introduce a two-years' compulsory military service, but in 1990 it was reported that conscription had not been included in Namibia's constitution. [2]


Recruitment into the Namibia Defence Force is on a voluntary basis. [4]

It is not known what the legal minimum recruitment age is.

2 Conscientious objection

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

3 Draft evasion and desertion

No information available.

5 History

Before Namibia achieved independence on 21 March 1990, conscription existed. According to South African legislation all white men were liable for military service. In October 1980 compulsory military service was extended to all 16 to 25-year-old black men, although only a small proportion of those eligible were actually recruited. [1] [4]

In the mid-1980s, a few white Namibian conscripts began to resist military service and they were joined by hundreds of blacks. Such was the level of resistance that the South African armed forces were unable to enforce conscription of blacks. Thousands of people failed to register for conscription and hundreds left the country to avoid being called up. In November 1984 the government decided that all Namibian men between the ages of 17 and 54 were to register for military service, but it turned out that the legal basis to conscript blacks was totally non-existent, as the South African conscription legislation was limited to whites and the 9 November 1984 extraordinary gazette also only referred to 'white male citizens'. The military authorities were at a loss to explain this mistake. [3]

There have been at least two cases of resisters who tried to resist conscription in court arguing that South Africa's occupation of Namibia was illegal and that South Africa had no right to conscript Namibia's citizens. The South African Supreme Court rejected both cases. [3]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are about 5,800 strong - 0.33 percent of the population. [5]


[1] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [2] Peace News Bulletin no. 11, 1990. [3] Cawthra, G. et al. (ed.) 1994. War and resistance: Southern African reports, the struggle for Southern africa as documented by Resister magazine. Macmillan, London/Basingstoke, UK. [4] Embassy of Namibia in Brussels 1996. Reply to CONCODOC enquiry, Brussels, 24 December 1996. [5] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK.