United Nations Commissioner for Namibia

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Group.png United Nations Commissioner for Namibia  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Carlsson Pan Am 103.jpg
Governor-in-waiting Bernt Carlsson killed on the eve of taking charge of Namibia
Formation27 October 1966
Extinction21 December 1988
Chief Administrative Officer (Governor-in-waiting) of the UN Trust Territory Namibia, illegally occupied by apartheid South Africa (1971-1990)

The acronym UNCN stands for both the post of United Nations Commissioner for Namibia (left vacant after the seventh and last office holder Bernt Carlsson was murdered on 21 December 1988[1]) and the United Nations Council for Namibia, which the UN established in 1967 as occupied Namibia's only lawful Administering Authority.

The UN had terminated South Africa's mandate over Namibia in 1966. In 1971 the International Court of Justice ruled that the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia was illegal and as a result South Africa was under obligation to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately and thus put an end to its occupation of the Territory. But South Africa refused to withdraw, and the liberation movement SWAPO had to continue its decades-long struggle for independence.[2]

Following the formal signing ceremony of the Namibian independence agreement at United Nations headquarters on 22 December 1988 (which Governor-in-waiting Bernt Carlsson was prevented from attending), Namibia finally achieved independence on 21 March 1990. The other UNCN (UN Council for Namibia) was dissolved six months later.[3]


Namibia — formerly known as South-West Africa — was the only one of the seven African Territories once held under the League of Nations Mandate System that was not placed under the Trusteeship System. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) recommended in 1946 that South Africa do so, but South Africa refused. Instead, South Africa informed the United Nations in 1949 that it would no longer transmit information on the Territory, on the grounds that the Mandate had lapsed with the demise of the League. In 1950, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that South Africa continued to have international obligations towards the Territory, and that the United Nations should exercise the supervisory functions of the League of Nations in the administration of the Territory. South Africa refused to accept the Court's opinion, and continued to oppose any form of United Nations supervision.

In 1966, the UN General Assembly declared that South Africa had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Mandate. It terminated that Mandate, and placed the territory under the direct responsibility of the United Nations. In 1967, the Assembly established the United Nations Council for South West Africa to administer the Territory until independence. It thus became the only Territory which the United Nations, rather than a Member State, assumed direct responsibility. In 1968, the Council was renamed the United Nations Council for Namibia, when the Assembly proclaimed that, in accordance with the wishes of its people, the Territory would be thenceforth known as Namibia. Later that year, in the face of South Africa's refusal to accept UNGA's decision and cooperate with the UN Council for Namibia, the Assembly recommended that the Security Council take measures to enable UNCN to carry out its mandate.

Seven Governors-in-waiting

UN Commissioner for Namibia (UNCN) was a post created by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 1966 to assert the UN's direct responsibility for South West Africa (Namibia) which was then under illegal occupation by apartheid South Africa.[4][5] There were seven occupants of the post of UN Commissioner for Namibia. South Africa refused to recognise the authority of any of the Governors-in-waiting.

Commissioner Nationality Term of office
Anton Vratuša Yugoslavia 27 October 1966 — 13 June 1967
Konstantinos Stavropoulos Greece 13 June 1967 — 1 December 1969 (acting)
Agha Abdul Hamid Pakistan 1 December 1969 — 18 December 1973 (acting)
Seán MacBride Ireland 18 December 1973 — 1 January 1977
Martti Ahtisaari Finland 1 January 1977 — 1 April 1982
Brajesh Mishra India 1 April 1982 — 1 July 1987
Bernt Carlsson Sweden 1 July 1987 — 21 December 1988


An Office Holder on Wikispooks

Martti Ahtisaari1 January 19771 April 1982


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  1. "U.N. Officer on Flight 103"
  2. "Independence for Namibia Now! UN Council for Namibia"
  3. "Dissolution of the United Nations Council for Namibia"
  4. UN General Assembly resolution 2248 of 19 May 1967 established a UN Council for South-West Africa and UN Commissioner for South-West Africa
  5. UNGA resolution 2372 of 12 June 1968 renamed UN Council for Namibia and UN Commissioner for Namibia