Sunday, July 21, 2013

German African-North Sea land swap-- Caprivi Strip

I am learning more than I ever imagined about Namibia in Paul Theroux's book The Last Train to Zona Verde. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Sub-Saharan African geography is atrocious. With a blank map, I can identify ten countries, tops.

Well, look at this map of Namibia (a former German, and then South African, colony). Notice that strip on the northeastern corner? That is the Caprivi Strip. How did that come about?

Well, the Germans wanted access from Namibia to its eastern African possessions (Burundi, Rwanda, and mainland Tanzania). You see, the strip gave it access to the Zambizi River. (However, it wasn't until after the acquisition of the Caprivi Strip that Germany learned that that section of the river was unnavigable.)

How did Germany gain the strip? A land swap with Great Britain. In the 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, Britain gave Germany: the Caprivi Strip, Heligoland (an island off the coast of Denmark), and a promise not to assert power in the coastal region near Dar es Salaam. Germany in turn gave Britain: a sultanate on the Kenyan coast so that Britain could finish its railway to Lake Victoria and a promise not to assert power over Zanzibar. The two colonial powers also agreed upon boundaries in West Africa.

Map and more info about the Caprivi Strip here.

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