Namibian groups up the ante in reparations claim against Germany

> Magreth Nunuhe

Windhoek – Descendants of the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama people of Namibia have reignited their reparations claim against Germany, putting pressure on that country to acknowledge the historic atrocities committed here more than a century ago as genocide.

In a petition handed over to the German Ambassador to Namibia, Christian Schlaga on October 1, 2015 in Windhoek, committees of the three groups demand that the German government officially acknowledge the Extermination Order issued by German General Lothar Von Trotha in 1904 and 1905, which led to the near annihilation of Ovaherero/Ovambanderu from about 80 000 to 15 000 and the Nama from 19 000 to 9 000 people.

The groups demand that the German government offers an “unqualified” apology to the descendants of the victims targeted by the Extermination Order and that Germany accepts responsibility to pay reparations to representatives of the descendants of the victim groups who were exterminated.

Further to that, the committees demand that the German government sits down and discusses with representatives of the descendants of the victims the details and modalities relating to the payment of reparations in the same fashion as it discussed and agreed reparations with the Jewish Claims Conference as a non-State entity.

The petition comes on the heels of the genocide committees’ visit to Berlin, Germany in July 2015 where together with a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civic organisations, they handed over a petition to German president Joachim Gauck in Berlin.

Among the delegates were Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro, Utjiua Muinjangue, chairperson of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation and Ida Hoffmann, chairperson of the Nama Technical Committee on Genocide.

Descendants of the genocide victims say that they are still haunted by the horrific nature of the war crimes and inhumane treatment of their ancestors at the hands of the German Imperialist Troops and are disturbed, disappointed and disillusioned by the continued refusal of the German government to engage in dialogue with the direct descendants of the genocide.

The committees gave the German government a deadline of October 2, 2015, by which it should declare its intent on unconditionally engaging all stakeholders, including representatives of the descendants of the victims of genocide.

Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero people, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro reportedly said that people affected by the 1904-1908 genocide would no longer tolerate German manipulation beyond 2 October 2015 during the visit to Berlin.

Speaking at the Ozombu Zovindimba commemoration site in the Otjinene Constituency in eastern Omaheke Region on October 3, Rukoro further expressed his disappointment that their demands for a tripartite discussion involving descendants of the victims, the Namibian and German governments have fallen on deaf ears.

He said have they raised the genocide and reparations issues since 1995 when former German Chancellor Dr Helmut Khol first visited Namibia.

Ozombu Zovindimba is the the very same place where General Von Trotha issued the Extermination Order on October 2, 1904.

At the event, the genocide committees also issued a ‘Resistance Order against German Arrogance’, saying that the continued arrogant and paternalistic attitude and behaviour of the German government is “a declaration of war on our people”.

The committees have decided, among others, to internationalise the genocide issue by taking it to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) and other international bodies; to institute legal proceedings against the German government and to “launch a massive programme of positive action against German interests wherever they are until Germany can no longer absorb the pain of losses associated with their campaign”.

“That in response to such neo-imperialist war being imposed on us as an oppressed people, our people have resolved to fight for their dignity as Africans with all legitimate means at their disposal until final victory is achieved in the form of restorative justice becoming a reality – however long it takes,” read the statement by the committee.

Modern-day Namibia was a German colony from 1884 to 1915, known as German South-West Africa.

The German government has apologized for the atrocities committed against the Namibian people, but refuses to consider reparations, saying that it had already paid hundreds of millions of euros in aid to Namibia.

NGOs and civil society have been pressuring the German government to pay reparations to the people of Namibia and recognise that it was in fact genocide that was committed here.

October 2015
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