Cunene River

The Cunene River (Portuguese spelling) or Kunene River (Namibian spelling) is a river in Southern Africa. It flows from the Angola highlands south to the border with Namibia. It then flows west along the border until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the few perennial rivers in the region. It is about 1,050 kilometres (652 mi) long, with a drainage basin 106,560 square kilometres (41,143 sq mi) in area. Its mean annual discharge is 174 m³/s (6,145 cfs) at its mouth.[1] The Epupa Falls lie on the river. Olushandja Dam dams a tributary of the river, the Etaka, and helps provide the Ruacana Power Station with water.

Cunene River
Kunene River
Řeka Kunene River, vodopády Epupa Falls - Namibie, Angola - panoramio
Cunene River near Epupa Falls
Course of the Kunene River, parts in Angola highlighted in blue
Physical characteristics
 - locationAngolan Highlands
MouthAtlantic Ocean
 - coordinates
17°15′09″S 11°45′05″E / 17.25250°S 11.75139°ECoordinates: 17°15′09″S 11°45′05″E / 17.25250°S 11.75139°E
 - elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length1,050 km (650 mi)
Basin size106,560 km2 (41,140 sq mi)
 - average174 m3/s (6,100 cu ft/s)
Basin features
WaterfallsEpupa Falls

Dam controversies

The Namibian government proposed in the late 90's to build the Epupa Dam, a controversial hydroelectric dam on the Cunene. In 2012 the Governments of Namibia and Angola announced plans to jointly build the Orokawe dam in the Baynes Mountains. According to the indigenous Himba who would have been most affected by the construction of the dam, the dam threatens the local ecosystem and therefore the economic basis of the Himba. During February 2012, traditional Himba chiefs issued a declaration to the African Union and to the United Nations Human Rights Council of the United Nations, titled "Declaration of the most affected Ovahimba, Ovatwa, Ovatjimba and Ovazemba against the Orokawe Dam in the Baynes Mountains," which outlines the fierce objections against the dam from the traditional Himba chiefs and communities that reside near the Kunene River.[2][3][4]

September 2012, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples visited the Himba, and heard their concerns.

November 23, 2012, hundreds of Himba and Zemba from Omuhonga and Epupa region protested in Okanguati against Namibia’s plans to construct a dam in the Kunene River in the Baynes Mountains, against increasing mining operations on their traditional land and human rights violations against them.[5]

March 25, 2013, over thousand Himba and Zemba people marched in Opuwo[6] to protest again against Namibia's plans to build the Orokawe dam in the Baynes Mountains at the Cunene River without consulting with the indigenous peoples that do not consent to the construction plans.[7]


Tourists frequent campsites or lodges in Epupa which offer water sports on the river including rafting and canoeing.[8] There are ancient baobab trees alongside the gorge, and there is an attractive and well-kept viewpoint high above the village and falls, but both are spoiled by broken bottles and abundant garbage.


  • C.Michael Hogan. 2012. Kunene River. eds. P. Saundry & C. Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC.
  • Moor, H.M.Barber-James, A.D.Harrison, C.R.Lugo-Ortiz. 2000. The macroinvertebrates of the Cunene River from the Ruacana Falls to the river mouth and assessment of the conservation status of the river. African Journal of Aquatic Science. Vol.25, no.1
  • Mikiyasu Nakayama. 2003. International Waters in Southern Africa. United Nations University Press. ISBN 92-808-1077-4. Google eBook

Line notes

  1. ^ Nakayama, Mikiyasu (2003). International Waters in Southern Africa. United Nations University Press. p. 9. ISBN 92-808-1077-4.; online at Google Books
  2. ^ "Indigenous Himba Appeal to UN to Fight Namibian Dam". Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  3. ^ "Namibian Minority Groups Demand Their Rights". Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  4. ^ "Declaration of the most affected Ovahimba, Ovatwa, Ovatjimba and Ovazemba against the Orokawe Dam in the Baynes Mountains". Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  5. ^ "Namibia: Indigenous semi-nomadic Himba and Zemba march in protest against dam, mining and human rights violations". Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "German GIZ directly engaged with dispossessing indigenous peoples of their lands and territories in Namibia". Retrieved March 30, 2013.
  7. ^ "Himba, Zemba reiterate 'no' to Baynes dam". Catherine Sasman for The Namibian. Retrieved March 26, 2013.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-22. Retrieved 2013-03-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

Awaous lateristriga

Awaous lateristriga, the West African freshwater goby, is a species of goby found in marine, fresh and brackish waters (though mostly in freshwaters) along the Atlantic coast of Africa from Senegal to the Cunene River, Angola and also from islands in the Gulf of Guinea. This species can reach a length of 26.4 centimetres (10.4 in) TL.

Battle of the Cunene

In the Battle of the Cunene River, Portuguese Colonial forces were defeated by Angolan Ovambo warriors on 25 September, 1904. The defeat was one of the heaviest defeats in Portuguese Colonial history since Alcácer Quibir (1578) and is comparable to the British defeat at Isandhlwana against the Zulus (1879), the Italian defeats at Dogali (1887) and at Adwa (1896) against the Ethiopians or the Spanish defeats at Melilla (1909) and at Annual (1921) against the Rif.

After having subdued the Nkhumbi people, Portuguese troops advanced from Huila southward into territories which were just claimed by Portugal but not yet under control. At Cunene River they were confronted with the resistance of two Ovambo peoples, the Cuamato and Cuanhama, led by their king Tchetekelo. When an advanced unit composed of 500 Portuguese soldiers and Humbi auxiliaries under captain Luís Pinto de Almeida crossed the river, about 300 men were massacred in an ambush.The Portuguese defeat was followed by a punitive expedition in 1905 and 1907, but not before 1916 Southern Angola was "pacified".

Blackback barb

the blackback barb (Enteromius barnardi), is a species of cyprinid fish native to Africa where it is known to occur in shallow, vegetated waters of the Zambezi River system, the Cunene River system and the Zambian portion of the Congo River system. This species can reach a length of 7 centimetres (2.8 in) SL.

It is also found in the aquarium trade.

Cunene Province

Cunene is a province of Angola. It has an area of 87,342 km² and a population of approximately 965,000.

Cunene labeo

The Cunene labeo or Kunene labeo (Labeo ansorgii) is a species of fish in the family Cyprinidae, the carps and minnows. It is native to Angola and Namibia.This fish occupies rocky habitat in flowing river waters. It is recorded from the Bengo, Cuanza, and Cunene Rivers.Little is known about the biology or population sizes of this fish. It faces no apparent threats except a dam on the Cunene River, which separates populations on the upper river from those on the lower parts.

Cynoglossus capensis

Cynoglossus capensis, commonly known as the Sand tonguesole is a species of tonguefish. It is commonly found in southeastern Atlantic Ocean off the south western coast of Africa from the Cunene River to the Cape of Good Hope. It is normally found at depths of no greater than 100m, but it has also been reported on the continental slope.

Epupa Falls

The Epupa Falls (also known as Monte Negro Falls in Angola) are created by the Cunene River on the border of Angola and Namibia, in the Kaokoland area of the Kunene Region. The river is 0.5 km wide and drops in a series of waterfalls spread over 1.5 km, with the greatest single drop being 37 m. The name "Epupa" is a Herero word for "foam", in reference to the foam created by the falling water.


Humbe is a town and commune in the municipality of Ombadja, province of Cunene, Angola.

It also used to be the location of a Roman Catholic mission station in southern Angola, located ca. 10 km to the north-east of Xangongo, in the tribal area of the Ombadja tribe of the Ovambos. It was located on a tributary of the Kunene River, flowing into this river from the north.

Humbe was established in ca. 1882, after the Catholics had made a failed attempt to establish themselves near the Finnish mission station of Olukonda in Ondonga, Ovamboland, in 1879, and in then in Omaruru, Hereroland, further south in South West Africa in 1882.The attempts of the Portuguese to subjugate the Ovambos of Ombadja and Oukwanyama were initially unsuccessful, and 1904 they suffered a massive defeat at the Cunene river. In response, the Portuguese established Forte Roçadas in 1906 in what is now Xangongo, not far from Humbe.

Iona National Park

Iona National Park (Portuguese: Parque Nacional do Iona) is the largest national park in Angola. It is situated in the Southwestern-most part of the country, in Namibe Province. It is roughly bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the West, an escarpment to the East that marks the beginning of the interior plateau, the Curoca River to the North, and the Cunene River to the South. It is about 200 kilometres (120 mi) south of the city of Namibe and covers 5,850 square miles (15,200 km2) sq. miles.The topography of Iona is characterised by wild dunes, vast plains, and rough mountains and cliffs. Annual average precipitation is approximately 18mmm. The Curoca River is intermittent but has lagoons, while the Cunene is permanent and has marshy areas at its mouth.Iona had been proclaimed as a reserve in 1937 and upgraded to a national park in 1964. However, as is true for most Angolan national parks, the Angolan Civil War greatly disrupted the area. Illegal poaching and the destruction of infrastructure have caused considerable damage to the once rich park.

In recent years, a number of government and international projects have begun rebuilding the infrastructure of the park.

Iona – Skeleton Coast Transfrontier Conservation Area

The Iona–Skeleton Coast Transfrontier Conservation Area is a proposed transfrontier conservation area for which four areas are being considered as components.

Two in Angola are the:

Iona National Park, and the

Namibie Partial Reserve.The Namibian components will be the:

Skeleton Coast National Park that shares a common boundary with Iona National Park along the Cunene River, and a proposed contractual conservation area involving local communities in the Kunene and Erongo Regions. This area is provisionally known as the

North West People’s Conservation Area (Also known as NWPCA).

Microlipophrys velifer

Microlipophrys velifer, the sailfin blenny is a species of combtooth blenny found in the eastern Atlantic ocean off west Africa from Mauritania and Cape Verde to the Cunene River, Angola.

Mucubal people

The Mucubal people (also Mucubai, Mucabale or Mugubale) are a subgroup of the Herero people in southern Angola. Like the Masai, to whom they are said to be related, they are semi-nomadic, depending on cattle and agriculture. Their territory is in the Namib Desert, bounded by the Serra da Chela mountains to the north and Cunene River to the south.Mucubal people typically wear little clothing, carry machetes or spears, and are renowned for their endurance, sometimes running 50 miles (80 km) in a day. Their villages typically consist of a group of huts arranged in a circle.


Naulila is a town and commune in the municipality of Ombadja, province of Cunene, Angola.

Located on the Cunene River which separates Angola and Namibia, Naulila was the scene of fighting between Portuguese Angola and German South West Africa during the early stages of World War I. On 19 October 1914, a German military column crossed the border and entered Angola without authorisation from the Portuguese authorities. The column was intercepted by Portuguese forces and conducted to Fort Naulila. At Naulila, a dispute occurred between the Portuguese and the Germans which resulted in the deaths of three German officers.

On 31 October, the Germans under the command of Oswald Ostermann retaliated, and raided the Portuguese fort at Cuangar with the use of machine guns, in which the fort was destroyed and the majority of the border guards killed. This was later referred to as the "Cuangar Massacre". On 18/19 December, Victor Franke led a successful retaliatory attack, defeating the Portuguese at Naulila.

Olushandja Dam

Olushandja Dam is a dam on the Etaka River outside of Oshakati in the Oshana Region of Namibia. The dam was completed in 1990. Its lake has a maximum capacity of 42.331 million cubic metres, and stores water from the Calueque Dam on the Cunene River in nearby Angola which supports the Ruacana Power Station downstream.

Orthochromis machadoi

Orthochromis machadoi, the Cunene dwarf happy, is a species of cichlid native to Angola and Namibia, where it is known from the Cunene River system. This species can reach a length of 6.5 centimetres (2.6 in) SL. The specific name of this fish honours the Portuguese zoologist António de Barros Machado (1912-2002) who collected the type in Angola.

Ruacana Power Station

The Ruacana Power Station is a hydroelectric power plant near Ruacana in northwest Namibia, close to the Angolan border. Water for the power station is stored in a dam just above the Ruacana Falls along the Cunene River in Angola. Several dams upstream help regulate the Cunene River to help the power station operate more efficiently. The Calueque Dam in Calueque, Angola is under construction. Further up is the Gove Dam in west-central Angola and the Olushandja Dam, on the tributary, Etaka River, is in Namibia. The power station is located underground near the bottom of the falls and has an installed capacity of 330 megawatts (440,000 hp).The power station is operated by Namibia's national power utility company, NamPower. The first three 80 MW Francis turbine-generators were commissioned in 1978 and the fourth Francis turbine-generator at 90 MW was commissioned on 5 April 2012.

Synodontis vanderwaali

Synodontis vanderwaali is a species of upside-down catfish native to Angola, Botswana and Namibia where it occurs in the upper Zambezi River, the Okavango River and Delta and the Cunene River. This species grows to a length of 16.03 centimetres (6.31 in) SL.

Synodontis woosnami

Synodontis woosnami, known as the Upper Zambezi squeaker, or bubblebarb squeaker, is a species of upside-down catfish that is native to Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe where it is found in the upper Zambezi and Okavango River basins and the Cunene River. It was first described by British-Belgian zoologist George Albert Boulenger in 1911, from a specimen collected in the Okavango River at in the Lake Ngami district of Botswana. The species name woosnami is derived from R. B. Woosnam, the collector of the first specimen.

Western Power Corridor

The Western Power Corridor (Westcor) was a project to construct and supply energy from two hydroelectric power plants to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Originally, the hydro power was to be supplied form the Democratic Republic of the Congo's INGA III project. Later Inga III was supposed to be replaced by Angola's Cuanza River and Cunene River projects or by the new project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


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