22 January 2013

Namibia: German MP Pays Friendly Visit

Windhoek — The Namibian-German Parliamentary Friendship Group (NGPFG) yesterday met with a German MP to discuss issues of mutual concern and to strengthen ties between the two parliaments.

In order for both the Namibian and German parliaments to forge an expeditious way forward with the envisaged inter-parliamentary dialogue, Namibia constituted the NGPFG in 2012, with the hope that the group together with its German counterpart in the Bundestag could address issues of mutual interest.

The chairperson of the NGPFG, Professor Peter Katjavivi, held lengthy discussions with the German MP, Heidemarie Weiczorck-Zeul, who is in the country on a three-day visit.

Some of the issues to be deliberated on include the unfinished business of the atrocities committed by German colonial forces against the Namibian people and the subject of the phased return of the human skulls of Namibian ancestors from Germany.

"As you may be aware, this subject of the skulls has touched a sensitive and raw nerve within Namibia and strained Namibian-German relations. This is what necessitated the visit of Ambassador Walter Lindner (in February 2012)," Katjaivivi said. Katjivivi briefed Zeul on the German Special Initiative for Namibia, saying the major challenge relating to this programme has been the slow pace of disbursement of funds and other logistics.

"At the initial stages, things didn't go well. They were not implemented well, but in the last few months things have been going well," he indicated. Katjavivi is expected to accompany Zeul today to Otjimbingwe in the Erongo Region to visit some of the communities who benefited from the special initiative. "Our understanding now is that some of these challenges have been addressed and you will be able to have the benefit of hearing from the responsible officials during the visit."

In addition, he emphasised that special attention needs to be paid to the welfare of the community comprising of those Namibians who fled to Botswana during the 1904-08 German atrocities and whose descendants returned to Namibia after independence under the programme. These people are settled at Gam in the Otjozondjupa Region and desperately need support in the areas of education, health and community development through sustainable initiatives.

Katjavivi highlighted the fact that there was never any form of acknowledgment from the German government of the resolution on reparations by the Namibian National Assembly in 2006, which was forwarded to the German authorities.

"On the outstanding issues, we here in Namibia and you in Germany are being called upon to take a bold step in addressing these issues in an amicable manner that will contribute towards healing the wounds of the affected communities in Namibia and provide a bright future in the relations of our two countries," he said.

Zeul, who was the first senior German official to take a bold decision to make an official public apology for the atrocities committed by the German colonial forces against Namibian communities, says persistent dialogue is needed between the two countries to deal with the future. She is interested in and looks forward to visiting some of the communities who benefited from the special initiative programme. "We want to know how to enlarge and accelerate it. Without emotions and feelings, there is no realisation," she added.

"Healing of wounds is a very important part so we can close this chapter," Swapo MP Lucy Witbooi, who is also a member of the NGPFG, said. She noted that there is a need for the two governments to talk openly so that all the skeletal remains in German can be repatriated. "One can not stay with this unfinished business for years and years," Witbooi added.

Arnold Tjihuiko, Nudo MP, also a member of the group said although reparations is a very "sensitive issue, we cannot bypass it." Germany has made available 11 million euros towards the special initiative programme, in addition to the first tranche of 12 million euros that went towards sponsoring smaller projects that do not require in-depth feasibility studies. Both countries look forward to creating more programmes for the affected communities.

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