The meeting yesterday between Germany’s Special Envoy on Genocide, Ruprecht Polenz, and the Nama Genocide Technical Committee/Ovaherero Genocide Foundation turned ugly, resulting in some members storming out.
Speaking to New Era shortly after the meeting yesterday, Matu Hoffmann, a member of the technical committee, who was part of the meeting, said they felt disrespected by the German delegation and this resulted in the fallout.
According to him, the group were particularly disturbed by a comment made by Polenz, who said the genocide committee group must stop comparing themselves to other genocide cases, as “only a small number of Ovaherero and Namas were killed”.
“It could have been very bad in that office, because it got to a stage where we had to force the door open for us to leave the premises because the German ambassador, Christian Schlaga, wouldn’t let us out,” said Hoffmann.
He described the German’s approach to the genocide discussion as sheer “arrogance” and “very disrespectful” towards the affected communities.
Although acknowledging receipt, the German Embassy did not respond yet by the time of going to print to questions sent to them yesterday morning. Efforts to obtain comment from German Ambassador Schlaga also prove futile, as his phone went to voicemail.
Subsequently, while the others were in a meeting a small group of people staged a peaceful protest at Zoo Park just opposite the German Embassy. The group were chanting slogans, such as “Nothing about us without us” and some held placards reading: “Ngavirue 1959 you sell out, again in 2016 genocide you sell out, till when?”
Addressing the media shortly after the meeting with the German envoy, across the road from the German Embassy, Swapo Member of Parliament Ida Hoffman said the genocide committees condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing bilateral negotiations between the German and the Namibian governments on the Nama/Ovaherero genocide of 1904-1908.
“We find the ongoing negotiations disrespectful to the affected communities and more so a mockery of the ongoing efforts by the representatives of the descendants of the victims of the 1904-1908 genocide to find a lasting and restorative solution to the painful past of German colonial rule in Namibia,” said Hoffman.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the negotiation path championed by the German government,” she added, and further accused the Namibian government of using divide and rule tactics on the issue.
She said instead of honouring the 2006 National Assembly resolution, government’s tactics around the ongoing negotiations are dividing the Nama and Ovaherero communities, which is unacceptable.
According to the list in New Era possession, the meeting with Special Envoy Polenz include the chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee Ida Hofmann MP, Deputy Minister of Land Reform Clinton Swartbooi, Ronnie Dempers, Paul Thomas, Pintile Davids, Sima Luipert and Hulda Eises, all members of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee.
Representatives from the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation included its chairperson, Utjiua Muinjangue, Festus Muundjua, Mbakumua Hengari, Inge Murangi, Kambanda Veii and Scara Matundu.
Polenz arrived in Windhoek on Monday for his third visit to the country and sixth engagement with Namibia on the genocide reparations issue, following five other preliminary meetings between the two envoys to prepare the framework for substantive negotiations.
On Wednesday, Polenz visited the OvaHerero graves near Anton Lubowski Avenue in Swakopmund in the Erongo Region and yesterday visited Otjunda in the Omaheke Region, where the late OvaMbanderu Chief Kahimemua Haikungairi Nguvauva was executed by German colonial troops on June 11, 1896 as punishment for participating in an uprising against settlers in the Gobabis area.
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