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Tue, 05.06.1856

Samuel Mahareo, African Chief born

Samuel Mahareo

*The birth of Samuel Maharero is celebrated on this date in 1856. He was an African Chief of the Herero people in German Southwest Africa (today Namibia).

He is considered a national hero in Namibia. Samuel Maharero was the son of Maharero, an important Herero warrior and cattle raider. He was baptized in 1869 and went to the local Lutheran schools, where he was seen as a potential priest. When his father died in 1890, he gained the chieftainship in Okahandja, although he did not gain much of his father's wealth and cattle, according to Herero inheritance customs. Initially, he maintained fairly good relations with the German colonial administration under Theodor Leutwein. However, increasing problems involving attacks by German farmers, economic difficulties and pests, and the use of Herero land for railroads led to diminished relations.

German settlers angered the Herero people. White colonial administrators viewed the indigenous tribes as a cheap source of labor for cotton and other export crops. Maharero secretly planned a revolt with the other chiefs against the German presence, though he was well aware of the odds against him. In a letter to Hendrik Witbooi, the Namaqua chief, Maharero sought to build alliances with the other tribes, exclaiming, "Let us die fighting!" His failed rebellion resulted in the 1904 Herero Namaqua Genocide.

He is one of nine national heroes of Namibia that were identified at the inauguration of the country's Heroes' Acre near Windhoek. Founding President Sam Nujoma remarked in his inauguration speech on August 26, 2002, that:

Chief Samuel Maharero started to make plans for an uprising against the German colonial authorities and white German settlers in the country. As a result, in January 1904, the uprising began, and chief Maharero's forces surrounded the German colonial settlers at Okahandja, Omaruru, and the famous Battle of Ohamakari near the Waterberg Mountain. The strength of his forces compelled the German colonial troops to send in reinforcements under the notorious General Lotha von Trotha, who carried out an extermination order to wipe out all women, children, and elderly persons. To his revolutionary spirit and his visionary memory, we humbly offer our honor and respect.

Samuel Maharero died on March 14, 1923. Maharero is honored in the form of a granite tombstone with his name engraved and his portrait plastered onto the slab.

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