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Jakob Morenga, also Jacobus and Marenga, known as the "black Napoleon," born c. 1875, died September 20, 1907, was an important figure in Namibia, then the German colony of German South-West Africa. He was chief leader in the insurrection against Germany which took place between 1904 and 1908, and was best known for forging an alliance between the rival Herero and Namaqua tribes.
Before the Herero and Namaqua War of 1904–1907, Morenga had participated in smaller, more localized insurrections which were taking place across German South-West Africa. Through these, Marenga (Marenga means Kings in Otjiherero) proved himself to be an able tactician. However, it was through his three years of leadership of the anti-German guerrilla forces that Morenga gained the majority of his reputation. It often proved difficult for Morenga to maintain proper control of his armies, as their preferred methods of attack differed fundamentally. The Herero sought direct and open combat with German forces, while the Namaqua preferred more guerrilla-like tactics. The group under Morenga planned their attacks from the hidden fortress of ǁKhauxaǃnas in southern Namibia. The diverse methods of attack used by Morenga's forces were enough to force a special election in the German Reichstag, due to the relatively heavy losses suffered by German troops.
After his battles against German troops, Morenga was imprisoned by British forces. However, he was released a short time later under the condition that he never return to German South-West Africa again. Despite this, he again ventured into German South-West Africa by crossing the Orange River. He soon began the task of assembling an army of native peoples to once again attack German troops. He gathered together the now-dispersed tribes of the Herero, Namaqua, and Witboois, leading them into battle against the German occupation.
Morenga gained a reputation within the German army as a strategic genius and a noble fighter, earning him his nickname, "the Black Napoleon" (German: der schwarze Napoleon). In May 1906, after the climactic Battle of Rooysvlei, Morenga was again forced to leave German South-West Africa, fleeing to South Africa. He retreated to the Kalahari desert, where he planned further insurrections against German troops. However, Morenga was traced through cooperation between German troops and British police, and was eventually shot and killed in a battle between his forces and the combined German-British forces, on September 20, 1907 at Eenzaamheid.
Jacob Morenga 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 26 August 2002 that:
Born of a Herero mother and a Nama father, Marenga had a vision of broad African nationalism which transcended narrow ethnic loyalties and he was therefore designated as 'the man of the future'. He employed scientific guerilla tactics with the multi-ethnic troops under his command and engaged the German colonial army in more than fifty battles. [...] To his revolutionary spirit and his visionary memory we humbly offer our honor and respect.
Morenga is honoured in form of a granite tombstone with his name engraved and his portrait plastered onto the slab. A statue of Morenga is situated at the cemetery of Warmbad in the far South of Namibia.
- Dierks, Klaus. "Chapter 2: The Rediscovery of ǁKhauxaǃnas". ǁKhauxaǃnas. Retrieved 30 Sep 2010.
- Nujoma, Sam (26 August 2002). "Heroes' Acre Namibia Opening Ceremony - inaugural speech". via namibia-1on1.com.
- Froehling, Marc (November 2012). "Warmbad: (Noch) Abseits der Touristenrouten" [Warmbad: (Yet) Beyond the Beaten Track]. Allgemeine Zeitung (in German) 2012 (10) (Tourismus Namibia).