WINDHOEK - An outgoing German diplomat who served in Namibia for four years (2014 to 2019) under the non-governmental organisation, Freidrich Ebert Stiftung foundation, last week confronted the elephant in the room by saying his country needed to own up to the 1904 genocide that killed almost 100 000 Ovaherero and Nama people in Namibia.
Although this is likely to draw the ire of some of his countrymen who have remained adamant that they do not need to own up to one of the worst atrocities in the world, comments by Heiner Naumann cement calls by the Ovaherero and Nama people of Namibia who are keen to find closure to the ruthless killing of their forefathers by the German colonial settlers in the early 19th century.
Renowned for the work he has done both in Namibia and Zambia where he worked closely with government and civil society, Naumann said his native country needed to take a good look in the mirror and engage a frank discussion with Namibians to find a lasting solution to reconciliation.
Bidding farewell to the Namibian political elite, non-governmental organisations as well as government and Swapo representatives who he worked with since 2014, Naumann stressed that there was a need to fully recognise that the atrocities that were committed in the early 1900s by the German colonial settlers in Namibia as a genocide for the wounds to be healed.
“It is important that while we move forward the word genocide must not leave our mouths. The relationship between Namibia and Germany has always been a special one hence we need to have frank engagements between our two countries to foster reconciliation among our people going forward,” he said.
The thorny genocide issue has dragged on in Namibia with the affected people demanding that Germany acknowledges the atrocities of their forefathers and pay reparations as a way of finding closure to the highly sensitive issue which saw Namibians massacred for their land and wealth and their limbs being paraded in different European museums.
Some of the so-called artifacts, which include the remains of the Ovaherero and the Nama people, are being repatriated in leaps and bounds by the Namibia government following protracted negotiations between the two countries. So emotional is the issue that both the Ovaherero and Nama people have also dragged the German government to an American court seeking justice for the genocide.
Speaking at the same event, new German ambassador to Namibia said while he is still gasping the culture of the country and settling in, there was a need for strengthened cooperation in development, political and social aspects.
“I have been here for six weeks now but I would say I am not qualified to talk about the country’s beliefs and I would like to cement our relations going forward,” he said.
Namibian Vice President, Nangolo Mbumba, in a speech read on his behalf by special advisor in the Vice President’s office, Bernard Haufiku, also underscored the need for mutual cooperation between Germany and Namibia.