Namibia is the UN's 160th member and is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. As of 2003, the government continues to play an active role in the African Union (AU, formerly the Organization of African Unity) and Nujoma has encouraged foreign participation in the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), an offshoot of the AU. Nujoma has also stepped forward in support of the AU Peace and Security Council, designed to promote peaceful means of conflict prevention, management, and resolution in the region.
Namibia's most pressing foreign policy issue for the first five years of independence was managing relations with South Africa, its former colonial master. South Africa had regularly used its economic and political clout to destabilize its neighbors, particularly those who showed strong opposition to its apartheid system. The Nujoma government worked for the 1 March 1994 hand over of Walvis Bay (Namibia's main deep water port), over which South Africa had kept control. This significantly freed the country from South Africa's economic stranglehold, putting Namibia in an advantaged position over other landlocked southern African countries.
The SWAPO government has, since independence in 1990, pursued neutrality and a principal of contact and dialogue that is enshrined in its Constitution. Namibia referred its 10-year-old territorial dispute with Botswana over Kasikili (a 3.5 sq km island, known in Botswana as Sedudu) to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. In December 1999, the ICJ ruled in favor of Botswana, and Namibia accepted the ruling.
During 1999, Namibia joined two civil wars. It sent an estimated 2,000 soldiers to help President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) fight rebels and, in December 1999, Nujoma allowed Angolan troops to use its territory to pursue National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels. Namibian involvement in both conflicts, criticized by the opposition and some quarters of society, has the potential to increase insecurity in that country.
The negative effects of these actions were already apparent in the Caprivi border region with Angola, where Namibians have suffered scores of injuries and deaths from UNITA rebel attacks and harassment. Many men, struggling to escape from the poverty in this region, have been convinced by Angolan army recruitment efforts to fight in a foreign war.