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He was the President of SWAPO (South West African People's Organization) while leading an armed struggle against the then governing power, South Africa. During the struggle, Nujoma took the combat name "Shafiishuna", which means "lightning", because it was in his family on his father's side. 
South Africa administered the land under a policy of apartheid, or division, in which the best resources were reserved for those classified white, while indigenous Namibians were treated as inferior and forbidden from active participation in their country. Nujoma led SWAPO in an armed struggle to end the South African occupation.
As head of SWAPO, Nujoma was unanimously declared president upon the victory of SWAPO in a United Nations-supervised election, and was sworn in as president by UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar on March 21, 1990.
In 1996 Norway decided to stop drought relief to Namibia in response to purchase of new expensive presidential jet and two new VIP helicopters. The planes were bought just few weeks after Sam Nujoma had appealed for the international community aid. 
The constitution of Namibia was changed to allow Nujoma to run for a third five-year term in 1999. He won that election with 76.8% of the vote. The constitution did not allow Nujoma to run again in November 2004 for a fourth term, and there was no move to change it again; Hifikepunye Pohamba, described by some as Nujoma's "hand-picked successor", was the SWAPO candidate for president instead. Pohamba was elected with a large majority and was sworn in as president on March 21, 2005. Nujoma will remain head of the SWAPO party until 2007. 
Nujoma initiated a plan for land reform, in which land would be redistributed from whites (who, despite constituting only a small percentage of the population, own a disproportionately large amount of the nation's farmland) to blacks, although the land reform is being done on a more gradual and long-term basis than neighboring Zimbabwe's land reform. Nujoma has been vocal in his support for Zimbabwe and its president, Robert Mugabe, in the face of the criticism the Zimbabwean government has received from the West for its land reform program. Under Zimbabwe's land reform programs, white farmers' lands have been seized without compensation.
Nujoma was born in the north of the country, in Ongandjera . His mother, Mpingana Helvi Kondombolo, was still alive as of May 2004, and over 100 years old.
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