8 January 2013

Namibia: March for Reparations Contemplated

A LONG march from Lüderitz to Windhoek by Nama and Herero speakers might be on the cards this year as groups want to pressure the German and Namibian governments to move faster on the reparations.

In the Neues Deutschland Sozialistishe Tageszeitung [New Germany Socialist Daily Newspaper] of January 4, Bethanie Nama chief David Frederick was quoted as saying that the more than 800-kilometre-long march would be to once again underline that reparations are necessary to groups most affected by the 1904-1908 genocide perpetrated by Imperial Germany against groups during colonial times.

Frederick is further quoted as saying that the march would culminate in a petition handed over to the German Embassy in Windhoek, and to impress it upon the Namibian government to take note of reparation claims by the Nama, Herero and other affected groups.

Yesterday, chief Frederick told The Namibian that the idea to stage such a march was first discussed in 2006 between Namas and the Hereros under chief Kuaima Riruako.

Chief Riruako that year tabled a motion in the National Assembly to acknowledge the genocide perpetrated by the German colonial regime against the Nama, Herero, Damara and San communities.

The National Assembly unanimously adopted the motion on October 26, 2006.

After that, Frederick said yesterday, talks of the long march had fizzled out, which he now says was a mistake because it let up much of the mounting pressure on the two governments to take action on the reparation demands of the affected communities.

But now he wants to add new vigour to the former idea to march from Lüderitz which was where countless people were held and perished in German concentration camps.

"We have again started with plans to stage the march, but a number of groups - the Nama and Herero genocide technical committees and traditional authorities - still have to be consulted. I cannot say if such a plan would work," Frederick said.

Frederick said the claim for reparation should not be a "national issue" but should have a primary focus on those affected by the genocide.

There is a prevailing sentiment that the Namibian government does not support the affected groups' claim for reparation.

But former Minister of Foreign Affairs Utoni Nujoma in 2011 tried to allay these sentiments when he in Parliament said the Namibian government has not failed to take ownership of the demand for compensation, adding that the bilateral 'special relationship' between Germany and Namibia should also deal with the "difficult parts" of the shared history of the two countries. The momentum for reparation claims has again gained ground after 20 skulls of Namibian origin were repatriated from Germany in October 2011.

There are talks that more Namibian skulls are still being identified at some German universities where they have been kept for racist research, with these also to be repatriated to Namibia.

Frederick said an official "Christian" burial of skeletal bones of those who perished in the concentration camps and were excavated during the construction of the Aus-to-Lüderitz railway line in 2010, is another matter that is still outstanding.

Twenty-four bags of bones considered to be those of the genocide victims were collected and eventually buried in a mass grave in Lüderitz.

Frederick said a huge commemoration will be planned for this occasion and appealed that a monument be erected at the spot in honour of those who have died.

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