Genocide and reparations 112 years later
This Sunday is the 112th anniversary of the Extermination Order issued by then commander of the German colonial forces, General Lothar von Trotha, in German South West Africa against the Ovaherero.
On that Sunday, October 2, 1904, he announced the order at Ozombuzovindimba, today a national heritage site in the Otjinene Constituency. Hence, the pilgrimage this weekend.
About 80 percent of the Ovaherero were vanquished in that massacre. Translated, Ozombuzovindimba means the fountain of killing sores, due to the poisoning of the fountain by the German colonial forces, as result of which the retreating Ovaherero women, children and men died from drinking the poison water which gave them sores.
The 112th anniversary of the Extermination Order comes at the backdrop of the negotiations between the Namibian and German governments, as represented by their respective envoys on genocide, Dr Zed Ngavirue and Ruprecht Polenz.
Earlier this month Ngavirue and his entourage returned from Berlin, Germany where substantive genocide talks have reportedly begun. The anniversary also comes against the backdrop of the recent visit by President Hage Geingob to the United Nations, where he addressed the General Assembly.
Geingob reportedly said the Namibian and German governments are negotiating a compensation package for colonial Germany’s killing of Namibians, which might mean funding of Namibia’s development projects by the Germans.
The president could not have been more categorical, ever than any other Namibian high-ranking government official, as to the essence of the sudden late interest by the Namibian government in the issue of genocide and reparations.
“Geingob said the government would also seek German investment, including in wind farms, as a form of reparation for the massacre of Herero and Nama people in the early 20th century, when Namibia was still a colony, known as German South-West Africa.
“Germans will come in a big way,” the president was reported as having said in an interview with Taylor Hall and Paul Wallace of Bloomberg News. “We are telling them, you were the power here. You killed many of our people. Help us to change that. Now they have agreed. If you could get aid in kind that would help to better your country.”
All along those considering themselves rightful and bona fide direct descendants of the vanquished as a result of the extermination orders, one against the Ovaherero and the other against the Nama on April 22, 1905, have not only been suspicious about the ongoing negotiations between Namibia and Germany on genocide, but have also been questioning the legitimacy of the mandate of the Namibian government to negotiate on their behalf.
To this day the content of such negotiations have not been made known, even to the constituencies, as government has abrogated the right and mandate to represent.
Strangely, while it has been government that has been insisting on the national character of the issue of genocide it seems to have been inconsequent, as to the essence of such a national character, telling from the secrecy in which the negotiations seem to be shrouded and the attendant political shenanigans.
Because, if anybody at all, it is only the two governments and their respective envoys and others close to them, who seem and may be privy to the content of the Namibian, if not actually solely the Namibian government’s negotiating position, as outlined in the said submission made to the German counterpart.
Thus, is it any wonder that even those on whose behalf the Namibian government should have been negotiating, understandably have a document of their own, which they have been hoping to serve before the German authorities? How they will do this defies logic. Why draft their own document, given their confidence in our government?
Ngavirue recently returned from Berlin. All that the country has been hearing is that there has been progress. What this means, perhaps the country will know one day. And when it comes to knowing the truth, one cannot but dread that it be not too late to reverse and undo whatever damage may have occurred.
As the rest of the directly affected communities converge on Ozombuzovindimba on this historic Sunday, it seems aluta continua, as ever!