By Tiri Masawi
Windhoek – A settlement reached by the Namibian and German governments over the latter’s 1904-1908 slaughter of tens of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama has split opinion in the Southern African country.
The Namibian Presidency says the German offer of €1.1 billion (US$1.3 billion) is a step in the right direction, but traditional leaders describe it as an insult.
Germany colonial troops wiped out about 75 percent of the Ovaherero and Nam population in the first genocide of the 20th century.
Over a century later, the German Government has acknowledged that the extermination order carried out by General Lothar von Trotha was tantamount to genocide and hopes to atone for its sins with US$1.2 billion to be paid out over the next 30 years. The Germans say they will publicly apologise.
Namibian Presidency Spokesperson Dr Alfredo Hengari told The Southern Times that the government welcomed the developments, overdue though they were.
He emphasised that no amount of money could erase the genocide, but an apology and reparations should be welcomed in the spirit of moving forward.
“It is important that the Germans have formally recognised that the atrocities were a genocide and are willing to take responsibility for the bad past. It is a step in the right direction in the conclusion of the negotiations,” Dr Hengari said.
He said President Hage Geingob was far satisfied with the way the two countries had handled the talks so far, and he would formally address the nation in the near future.
“Although we will never find closure because no one will find closure in a genocide, we are glad that the Germans are owning up and the affected communities obviously want the Germans to pay reparations as per the negotiations and this will be important,” Dr Hengari said.
However,the Ovaherero Traditional Authority and the Nama Traditional Leaders Association are organising protests in the capital, Windhoek, to object to the agreement.
On May 28 they have submitted a petition to the Namibian Presidency and the German Embassy in Windhoek, in which they say the offer is an “insult”, and have also expressed their reservations to various German government offices and United Nations agencies.
“We deliberately chose the 28th of May to emphasise the point that on that date in 1907, the so-called closure of concentration camps meant the beginning of slave labour camps, from where we were sold to be used for the constructions of buildings, railway lines and private mines without pay.
“The women and girls were kept as domestic and sex slaves of the new land owners, the German settlers whose descendants continue to live on land which was legally ill-gotten through the stroke of the Imperial pen of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II,” the traditional leaders said.
Nonetheless, they commended the Namibian Government handled the complicated talks over the past six years.
“We are pleased that the German Government acknowledges that the genocidal acts committed by German imperial troops in Namibia between 1904 and 1908 constitute and amount to genocide as prescribed in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide of 1948,” they said.
“We have taken note of the so-called reconciliation and reconstruction grant that is being proposed as a substitute for Reparations. We were briefed that an amount of 1.1 billion euros was offered by the German Government and our position is that the amount proposed/offered is an affront to our existence and is not in line with the proposed reparation quantum that we submitted in 2019 for consideration during negotiations … the amount proposed/offered by the German Government is unacceptable to our communities given the magnitude of the genocidal atrocities committed.”