Historic genocide motion in Parly

Herero Paramount chief, Kuaima Riruako, on Tuesday tabled for the first time a motion on the Ovaherero genocide to garner legislators and the whole country’s collective support in confronting former colonial power Germany over the contentious issue of reparations.

This is also the first time such a motion has been tabled against a former colonial power in southern African, if not the rest of former colonial Africa.

In an emotional speech, Riruako criticised Germany, hinting that the Hereros were growing impatient with the current standoff over the issue of reparations.

The paramount chief appealed to elected representatives of the Namibian people to advise the German government to convene a consultative conference in order to set up an agenda for dialogue, “which should be the best way to solve the unresolved issue.”

Germany has admitted to the massacre of thousands of Herero and Nama Damara in 1904 and apologised for the atrocities but has dug in its heels over paying reparations to descendants of the killed Hereros.

The Herero Paramount chief reminded the German government some of its nationals still had properties, such as farms, which they took over during the colonial era.

He said that Namibians are “the survivors of the first genocide ever committed in Africa” and implored the nation to render “collective and patriotic support” to the reparations cause.

Narrating events, which led to the 1904 Herero uprisings, Riruako told the packed August house that the Herero took up arms under to leadership of Samuel Maherero to fight German rule, which was “oppressive and cruel.”

He said that following the Germany occupation, Hereros were driven off their land with thousands herd of cattle being confiscated.

In 1904, General Lothar von Trotha is said to have issued the infamous statement: “I the great general of the German troops send this letter to the Herero people; Hereros are no longer German subjects. All Hereros must leave the land. If the people do not want this then I will force them to do so with a great gun. Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot.

“I shall no longer receive any women and children. I will drive them back to their people or I will shoot them. This is my decision for the Herero.”

This culminated in the massive killings of defenceless women and children. Those who escaped the machine guns perished in the scorching desert sun, died of hunger whilst the rest trekked to as far as Botswana and South Africa.

Despite its continued refusal to compensate Namibians for the killing of thousands of its forefathers, Germany paid billions of dollars in reparations for the holocaust against the Jews by Adolf Hitler’s fascist regime.

Riruako said that Germany paid US$822 million to holocaust survivors under the German Jewish settlement of 1952.

In 1990, Austria paid US$25 million to holocaust survivors and in the same year United States of America paid US$1.2 billion to Japanese Americans. Prior to that , in 1985, the US also paid US$105 million to Indian Sioux tribes of South Dakota, US$12.3 million to Seminoles of Florida whilst another payment was made to the Chippewas of Wisconsin, all Indian tribes which were nearly wiped out by white Americans in the 18th century.

A massive US$1 billion and 44 million acres of land was given to the Alaskan natives by the US in 1971.

Canada also paid US$230 million to Japan Canadians and returned 250 000 square metres of land to Indians and Eskimos in 1988.

“Our demand for reparation is in line with international demand, therefore, it needs our collective and patriotic support as a nation,” Riruako said.

“My people (Herero community) rejected the poor attempt by the Germany government to hide behind discredited legalistic argument as a basis for denying the reparation demand of the Ovaherero, whilst at the same time seeking to justify its payment of reparation to the Jews for similar crimes committed by the Hitler regime.”

The German government has also argued that it has significantly assisted Namibia for years and pledged to live up to ‘its special historical responsibility toward Namibia’ but has refused proposals for reparations.

A development fund has reportedly been set up by the German government to develop certain areas in the Nama Damara and Herero areas.

“Such an attitude’.is nothing but a naked act of racism against black people in general and the Ovaherero in particular. It is also an insult to the collective intelligence of mankind everywhere,” Riruako thundered.

He added that Germany should come to terms with “reality and stop under-estimating the collective intelligence of the African people.”

Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) director Phil ya Nangoloh said that his organisation fully supports the calls for reparations adding that the German government committed an international crime against humanity.

Ya Nangoloh said the Namibian Parliament has no choice but to throw its weight behind the calls for reparations as an act of solidarity with the Herero and the Nama Damara people.

“There is no question for the German government to behave as if they did not kill people, they have to honour up,” Ya Nangoloh said.

He said that under Article 49 of the Namibian constitution, Parliament has a mandatory duty to act in the interest of all Namibians.

Ya Nangoloh said that should the German government continue to refuse payment, then the only option would be to take the matter to international courts.

“But they (Germany) have to exercise common sense and pay compensation. This is the best way to consolidate ties between the two nations.

“To deny compensation would be racist, they have paid billions of dollars to the Jews. It cannot be right for the Germans to have selective morality,” Ya Nangoloh said.

Debate on the motion on the Ovaherero genocide was postponed to Thursday this week with legislators requesting time to fully digest the motion.

September 2006
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