Playing Games


“As you may be aware, 127 years ago, Berlin was the very capital of the partitioning of the African continent among colonising powers.

“But today Berlin is fulfilling what one hopes is a completely different role far removed from its role in the colonial era as the mother of colonialism.

“But most importantly, what is transpiring in Berlin today, one hopes, is a starter away from the intransigent attitude of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany vis-à-vis the Namibian people who have been clamouring for restorative justice.”

I wrote the above on September 30, 2011, the day the Ovaherero and Nama, and Namibians in general, and the international community at large thought would be the day that would forever be enshrined in the annals of Namibian history.

This was on the day when a Namibian delegation led by the then Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Kazenambo Kazenambo, was receiving the first of 20 skulls of Namibians from the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, in the Federal Republic of Germany.

These were but only a fraction of the skulls of Namibian victims of Imperial Germany's excesses in the then Deutsche Sudwes Afrika, as Namibia was known then.

These skulls were taken there to serve colonial Germany's so-called academic inquisitiveness, a euphemism for colonial Germany's barbarism and inhumanity.

Many, and this columnist as much, thought this day, and the surrender of the first 20 skulls, would pave the way for the beginning of a constructive engagement by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, directly with directly affected Namibians, and/or indirectly through the government of the Republic of Namibia, on the return of the remaining skulls, estimated to be in their hundreds if not thousands.

And ultimately on the more vexed questions of Genocide and Reparation.

At least in the spirit of the government of Germany's own self-proclaimed historic and moral responsibility, if not in terms of the cordial relationship that the two countries, and the people thereof, have continued to enjoy since Independence in 1990.

“Be that as it may that cannot be the essence of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany eventually agreeing to the repatriation of the skulls.

“Descendants of the victims would like to read in such a gesture more than magnanimity by the German government, informed by changed international relations between the former colony and its former coloniser.

“On the contrary they read and pin much hope in this gesture as a complete change of attitude by the German government towards their expectations in Berlin, far from its 1884 role, assuming a completely different role aligned with its current world posture as a peace-loving nation that genuinely believes in the equality of other nations, and the dignity and human rights of their peoples,” this writer opined then.

Hardly two years down the line, it seems the die is being cast upon the historicity of the return of the first 20 skulls, if the news that has been trickling through from Germany is anything to go by.</p>

This news is that the German government seems to be playing, if all along it has not been playing, ping-pong with the return of the skulls, if not with the entire issue of Genocide and Reparation by now depositing and transferring the remaining skulls into private institutions.

If such a transfer is to facilitate their eventual repatriation to Namibia, there is no reason for one to have a principled objection to this.

But the clandestine way in which this is being done cannot but raise suspicion.

The government of the Federal Republic of Germany should by now be in the best know that the issue of genocide and reparations, and the attendant matter of skulls, and their repatriation, is not a matter that it can deal with at its own whim, and unilaterally, but one that all the way it must consult the Namibian people on, especially the affected communities, and also their government.

Not only this but these are matters that the Namibian people, and indeed their government, expects the government of the Federal Republic of Germany to deal with in an honest, forthright and transparent manner.

But foremost in a bold and consequent way befitting two States purported to have bilateral relations with each other, and on equal terms.

But the way the government of the Federal Republic of Germany has dealt with, and continues to deal with, the issues of genocide, reparations and the repatriation of skulls, speaks volumes of the low regard it has not only for the Namibian people, and the affected communities particularly, but also for its Namibian counterpart.

The question that both the Namibian people, and the affected communities in particular need to ask themselves, is how long are they prepared to tolerate these shenanigans and continued intransigence by the German government, and the blatant embarrassment of the Namibian government, if not its outright affront?

Is it not time that the Namibian people in general and the affected communities start to impress upon the government of the Federal Republic of Germany that their hopefulness to find a diplomatic and amicable solution to the issues at hand, is by no means a sign of weakness on their part, let alone their government?

Being a creation of international diplomacy, having obtained its independence through UN-supervised elections, Namibia is by no means a weakling but highly subscribes to the virtues of solving issues between friendly nations, states and countries, which of course the issues of genocide and reparations and the repatriation of the skulls are, diplomatically.  But if the government of the Federal Republic of Germany continues its intransigence and affront to the Namibian people, their hopes – which are by no means any illusions – may turn into hopelessness. Is this where the German government wants to lead the Namibian people? – New Era

November 2013
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