No single political issue has engaged the ICJ more than that of South West Africa (Namibia). Over a period ranging from 1949 through 1971, recourse was had to the Court, both in its advisory and contentious capacities, on various aspects of the problem. Even today, after Namibia attained independence, the Court's jurisprudence and the saga of UN-Court relations in this matter continue to intrigue. This is because the questions raised have continuing relevance to many issues bearing on international law and international relations.
Much has been, and will be, written on the approach of the Court and of individual judges to a panoply of international legal questions raised in the course of the judicial proceedings. But, in fact, the long tale also offers researchers an enticing fountain of material on the role of law and adjudication in international relations, on the interaction between the UN judicial and political fora and, more broadly, between law and politics. This article focuses mainly on these latter, relatively neglected, aspects because it is with respect to these that the benefit of hindsight offers the ability to reassess and revise some of the earlier assumptions and to note some interesting paradoxes not readily discernible at the time. Perhaps revision of some of the axiomatic propositions long perpetuated in the field will offer better guidance to those seeking to enhance the role of international adjudication in world affairs.