In 1965, the first group of the SWA Liberation Army (SWALA) under the command of Peter Nanyemba, Tobias Hainjeko and John Otto Nankudhu leave the Kongwa military training camp in Tanzania and move to Nakonde in Zambia. From there they move via Lusaka to Sesheke at the border to the Caprivi Strip.
From Katima Mulilo they move into Namibia and split up into several sub-groups. The sub-group headed by Patrick Iyambo (Lungada) moves to the homestead of Eliazer Tuhadeleni (Kaxumba kaNdola) at Endola in the Uukwanyama area where it later meets the second sub-group.
Tuhadeleni briefs SWAPO’s leaders including Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo, Joseph Matheus, Ben Amathila, Erastus Mbumba, Lot Homateni, Lamek Iithete and others. After their consultations with the SWAPO leadership, the group splits up again for political mobilisation.
Early in 1966, SWALA is renamed the Namibian People’s Liberation Army (NAPLA). During March 1966, John Otto Nankudhu, commander of the Namibian People’s Liberation Army (NAPLA), establishes in co-operation with other leaders such as Simeon Shihungileni, Victory Namuandi, Patrick Iyambo, Nelson Kavela and James Hamukuaja, a reconnaissance camp at Ontamanzi in the Ongandjera area.
In Ontamanzi the first military training centre named “Ondaadhi (reconnaissance)” is established. The first trainees are: Eliazer Tuhadeleni (Kaxumba kaNdola), Immanuel Shifidi, Festus Heita, Johannes Musheko, Paulus Shikolalje, Simeon Namunganga Hamulemo, Henok Jacob (Malila), Festus Nanjolo, Kornelius Shelungu, Thomas Haimbodi, Isak Shoome and Festus Muaala. In order to escape discovery by the South Africans, NAPLA shifts its training camp from Ondaadhi to Uuvudhija in the border area between the Uukwambi and the Ongandjera areas. The camp is named “Oondjokwe”.
The NAPLA group from Oondjokwe moves under the command of John Otto Nankudhu to Omugulu-gOmbashe (Otjiherero: Leg of a giraffe) northwest of Tsandi in the western parts of Ovamboland and starts to build structures and trenches for defensive purposes. From Omugulu-gOmbashe, Shikalepo Iileka makes contact with resistance groups in the Kaokoveld.
A further NAPLA group under the command of Kalep Tjipahura leaves Tanzania. Rudolf Kadhikwa is Deputy commander.
Other NAPLA soldiers are S Kakwambi, J Haiduua, Betuel Nunjango, Thomas Haimbodi, Abel Haluteni, P Hamalua Ndadi, Simeon Ipinge Iputa and Eliader Muatale. Muatale is later killed by combined SA and Portuguese forces.
Ndadi is killed during the crossing of the Kwando River. Ipinge Iputa has to return to Zambia due to exhaustion. With many difficulties they manage to cross the Okavango River between Shakawe and Maun in Botswana. Finally they reach their destination in Ovamboland.
SWAPO proclaims the armed struggle for the liberation of SWA after the first SWAPO soldiers complete their training. The first military clashes between NAPLA and SA troops occur on Friday, 26 August 1966 near the northern border with Angola (Omugulu-gOmbashe). In the mean time, a further unarmed group under the command of Leonard Phillemon Shuuya (Castro) runs into a South African ambush in the Kavango.
Only Julius Israel Shilongo (Kashuku) escapes and reports the incidents. Shilongo hides in the house of Erastus Mbumba. Phillemon, however, is converted by the South Africans and participates in the battle of Omugulu-gOmbashe on the South African side. After the Commander John Otto Nankudhu realises that he cannot withstand the superior South African fire power, he orders the NAPLA unit to retreat.
Many NAPLA soldiers die, are wounded or are taken prisoner by the South Africans. Eliazer Tuhadeleni (Kaxumba kaNdola) escape and is not arrested until March 1967 when he is captured at Okaloko near Ondangwa. Five different NAPLA groups are inside Namibia and are deployed in Eastern Caprivi, in the Kavango and in Ovamboland.
The NAPLA commander John Otto Nankudhu later is captured by the South Africans at Ohakueenjanga in the year.
Patrick Iyambo (Lungada), however, continues the fight against the South Africans until 1974, when he returns into exile via Angola to Zambia.