The salient protrudes eastward for about 450 km (280 mi) from the north-eastern corner of Namibia. It is bordered by Botswana to the south, and by Angola and Zambia to the north. At its eastern tip is only about 1 km from the borders of Zimbabwe. Within Namibia, it is divided administratively between Kavango East and Zambezi regions. It is crossed by the Okavango; the Kwando/Chobe river forms part of its border with Botswana; and the Zambezi river forms a part of its border with Zambia. The strip is about 32 km (20 mi) wide, and its area is slightly larger than the US state of Maryland.
Its largest settlement is Katima Mulilo, located at the point where the Zambezi river reaches the Strip.
Historic and current names
- The historic name in German is Caprivizipfel.
- A less colonial name is Okavango Strip.
- Another former name is Itenge. This was adopted during a short-lived secession attempt around the year 2000.
- This part of the country was anciently known as Lyiyeyi (Diyeyi), then Caprivi and currently Zambezi.
Inhabitants of the Caprivi Strip speak a number of African languages, mostly members of the Bantu language family, with speakers of Hukwe, a San language, in the northwest of the strip (on the border with Angola. The Bantu languages include Yeyi (or 'Yei' or 'Yeeyi'), Mbukushu, Gciriku (or 'Dciriku'), Fwe, Totela, and Subiya. Perhaps a majority in the Caprivi Strip, especially in Katima Mulilo, speaks Lozi as a lingua franca. Many also speak some English and Afrikaans.
The area is rich in wildlife and has mineral resources. Of particular interest to the government of Namibia is that it gives access to the Zambezi River and is thereby a potential trading route to Africa's East Coast. However, the vagaries of the river level, various rapids, the presence of Victoria Falls downstream and continued political uncertainty in the region make this use of the Caprivi Strip unlikely, although it may be used for ecotourism in the future.
Within Namibia the Caprivi Strip provides significant habitat for the critically endangered Wild African Dog, Lycaon pictus. It is a corridor for African elephant moving from Botswana and Namibia into Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. National parks found in the Caprivi Strip are Bwabwata National Park, Mudumu National Park and Nkasa Rupara National Park. Local communities have organised themselves into communal area conservancies and community forests. People work closely with the Namibian Government to jointly manage natural resources through several programmes set up between the Namibian Government and various donors.
Caprivi was named after German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi (in office 1890–1894), who negotiated the acquisition of the land in an 1890 exchange with the United Kingdom. Caprivi arranged for the Caprivi strip to be annexed to German South West Africa in order to give Germany access to the Zambezi River and a route to Africa's east coast, where the colony of German East Africa (now part of Tanzania) was situated. The river later proved unnavigable and inaccessible to the Indian Ocean due to the Victoria Falls. The transfer of territory was a part of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty of 1890, in which Germany gave up its interest in Zanzibar in return for the Caprivi Strip and the island of Heligoland in the North Sea.
In 1976, the South African administration established the pseudo-independent Eastern Caprivi homeland with its own flag, national anthem, and coat of arms. It remained under direct de facto control of the South African government in Pretoria until 1980, when its administration was transferred to South Africa's administration in Windhoek.
In the late 20th century, the Caprivi Strip attracted attention when Namibia and Botswana took a long-standing dispute over its southern boundary to the International Court of Justice. The core of the territorial dispute concerned which channel of the Chobe River was the thalweg, the bona fide international boundary. This was important, as, depending on the decision, a large island (known as Kasikili or Seddudu, by Namibia and Botswana respectively) would fall into one or the other's national territory. The Botswana government considered the island as an integral part of the Chobe National Park, whereas the Namibian government, and many inhabitants of the eastern Caprivi Strip, held that not only was the island part of the original German–British agreement, but generations of inhabitants had used it for seasonal grazing, for reed-gathering, and as a burial site. In December 1999, the International Court of Justice ruled that the main channel, and hence the international boundary, lay to the north of the island, thus making the island part of Botswana.
The Caprivi Strip is of politico-strategic military importance. During the Rhodesian Bush War (1965–1979), African National Congress operations against the South African government (1965–1994) and the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), the Strip saw continual military action and multiple incursions by various armed forces using the Strip as a corridor to access other territories.
The Caprivi conflict involved an armed conflict in Namibia between the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA), a rebel group aiming for the secession of the Caprivi Strip led by Mishake Muyongo, and the Namibian government. Its main eruption occurred on 2 August 1999 when the CLA launched an attack in Katima Mulilo, occupying the state-run radio station and attacking a police station, the Wanella border post, and an army base. Namibian armed forces quashed the attempt at secession within a few days.
- Derek F. Gowlett. 1989. The parentage and development of Lozi. Journal of African Languages and Literature, 11, 127–149.
- C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Painted Hunting Dog: Lycaon pictus, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg
- Simon S. Donnelly. (1990). Phonology and morphology of the noun in Yeeyi. University of Cape Town: BA Hons mini-dissertation.
- Derek F. Gowlett. 1989
- C. Michael Hogan. 2009
- State of Protected Areas in Namibia. Windhoek, Namibia: Ministry of Environment and Tourism. 2011.
- Frank Jacobs (5 December 2011). "A Few Salient Points". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013.
- Perras, Arne (2004). Carl Peters and German Imperialism 1856-1918 : A Political Biography: A Political Biography. Clarendon Press. pp. 168–79.
- Inambao, Chrispin (December 2010). "Rapid growth to urban centre". New Era.
- Lenggenhager, Luregn. "Nature, War and Development: South Africa's Caprivi Strip, 1960–1980". Journal of Southern African Studies. 41 (3): 467–483. doi:10.1080/03057070.2015.1025337.
- The Court finds that Kasikili/Sedudu Island forms part of the territory of Botswana (archive link)
- "Civil supremacy of the military in Namibia: A retrospective case study". NamibWeb. Retrieved 2008-11-08.