Kavangos booming capital
With its 81,500 inhabitants Rundu is the second largest town after the capital of Windhoek. Rundu is situated in the north east of Namibia directly at the Okavango River and the Angolan border. The town is the main centre of the Kavango Region.
Today the majority of the Kavango live in Namibia. Descending from five different East African tribes they settled on both sides of the Okavango River during the 16th century.
The area north of the Okavango, which today is Angola, had already been colonised during the 18th/19th century by the Portuguese, which led to the resettlement of numerous inhabitants from the northern side of the river to the southern banks.
The southern side of the Okavongo became part of German South West Africa in 1885. Due to its isolated position the first expedition into the area only took place in 1903. The establishment of several missionary stations followed shortly afterwards.
The town was founded in 1936 by the South African government and served as administrative centre for the Kavangos.
In line with the apartheid politics of the South African government separate black and white suburbs where formed in the seventies.
As Angola supported the Namibian civil war for independence from 1966 until 1988 and had a fierce civil war itself South African troops were stationed in Rundu. At the end of the eighties UN soldiers were stationed in Rundu. They also supported the elections for independence in 1990.
After independence the number of inhabitants has more than doubled due to immigrations from Angola (rural depopulation and political refugees). This necessitated some investment into the towns’ infrastructure, which was financed by the government, the town and by aid organisations.
Although Rundu still counts to one of the poorest towns of Namibia it experiences an economic boom due to the finalisation of the Trans-Caprivi-Highway. It connects the harbour of Walvis Bay with Lusaka, the Capital of Zambia improving the connection of the Caprivi Strip to Central Namibia and the Atlantic coast immensely. Zambia has thus also gained faster access to the ocean.
Rundu is also called the gate to the Caprivi. As the ‘capital’ of the Caprivi Strip, Katima Mulilo, is still about 500 kilometres away, one should stop over in Rundu to fill up on provisions as there are hardly any other shopping possibilities in between.