The Herero are a Bantu-speaking people of southern ANGOLA, NAMIBIA, and BOTSWANA. Their traditional herding society consisted of clans that traced their descent from both female and male ancestors. In the 1840s the Namibian Herero formed alliances with local chiefs, traders, and German missionaries. With the help of their allies, the Herero acquired firearms and increased their power. Eventually, three Herero states emerged in central Namibia. In the 1880s the region became a German colony and one of the Herero states cooperated with the colonial authorities. However, in the early 1900s war erupted between the Herero and the Germans. Some 80 percent of the Herero were killed, and the rest were put into concentration camps.
In 1915 South African forces occupied Namibia. They permitted the Herero to own cattle but did not allow them to return to their ancestral lands. The Herero later became leaders in political organizations calling for civil rights, as well as in the Namibian independence movement. (See also Bantu Peoples, Colonialism in Africa, Ethnic Groups and Identity, Livestock Grazing.)