6 February 2013

Namibia: PM Wants Open Debate On Reparations

Windhoek — Prime Minster Dr Hage Geingob says neither Germany nor the Namibian government can stop the people from talking about reparations for atrocities committed by Imperial Germany against Namibians during the colonial era.

"In a democracy, we cannot stop people from talking about reparations. It is painful because people died," Geingob told German Ambassador to Namibia, Onno Huckmann, during a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.

Geingob said as much as reparations are a sensitive issue, and the relationship between Germany and Namibia is good, people should not be prevented from talking about reparations.

"You cannot stop them from talking and let them throw stones. It is just that it should be done in an orderly way," he said, suggesting that the discussion can be discussed further in parliament.

Geingob said for people to truly reconcile, there is a need to admit wrongdoing on the part of Germany. He said even though people appear to have reconciled, there is still the lack of reconciliation, especially in the economy, which is aggravated by the land issue.

"Those that are well off should take care of those that are not well off," said the prime minister. In reply Huckmann said Germany through its parliament has expressed deep regret over the atrocities committed against Namibians by Germans, and therefore cannot neglect its historical responsibilities.

He said since independence, Germany has spent some N$7 billion in development aid to Namibia. He also mentioned the support under the Namibia-German Special Initiative, as well as the investment in the Ohorongo cement factory, which has created employment for hundreds of Namibians.

However, according to Geingob the Namibia-German Special Initiative is being foisted on the people, adding that there is a need for dialogue to ensure that the outcomes are of mutual interest and benefit.

"It (Special Initiative) was a unilateral decision by Germany, it could have been better if there was a Namibian narrative to it," he said.

The courtesy call by the German ambassador was followed by visits from the ambassadors of the United States of America (USA) and Turkey. All the ambassadors offered messages of condolence to Namibia and its people, and the family of Dr Abraham Iyambo who passed away on Saturday in London, UK.

US Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt briefed Geingob on the programmes that the USA carries out in Namibia through several agencies, which includes the work done by Peace Corps volunteers. She said a group of 100 to 120 volunteers come to Namibia every year, and two thirds of them volunteer in the education sector as teachers.

The next batch of volunteers will come to Namibia in March, she said. Nesbitt further said her country is playing a role in the agriculture, education and tourism sectors, through the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia (MCA-N).

She told Geingob that over a million cattle have been tagged in northern Namibia through the MCA-N. The ambassador said that in education, they have been providing textbooks and have also built several schools across the country and that they are in the process of building regional libraries.

Meanwhile, Turkish Ambassador Murat Yoruk said topping his agenda in Namibia are relations in trade and economic development. He told the Prime Minister that Turkey and Namibia are about to finalise an agreement on air transportation that could soon see the Turkish airline flying to Namibia.

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