12 February 2013

Namibia: Herero, Nama Groups Angered By German Ambassador

THE technical committees of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association and the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation have charged that new German ambassador Onno Hückmann was "disrespectful and discourteous" to Prime Minister Hage Geingob.

At a meeting with Geingob in early February, Hückmann was quoted as saying that repeated talk of reparations could tarnish the flourishing bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Herero and Nama groups said the Namibian government had not "persistently" mentioned reparations, and that in fact the German government and its representatives were "persistent and consistent" to come to terms with their colonial atrocities.

"The people who have been mentioning reparation ever since 1995 when the former chancellor of Germany, Herr Helmut Kohl, visited our country, are none other than ourselves, the Ovaherero and Nama people, the very descendants of the victims of genocide, and we shall continue to do so," the groups vowed.

The technical groups said they are 100 percent behind Geingob, who told Hückmann that the Namibian government couldn't stop people from talking about reparations.

The groups implored the German government to "break the wall of silence" and acknowledge the 1904 to 1908 genocide, to "stop being evasive and to desist from its veiled blackmails with its persistent excuses that mentioning its past colonial brutal excesses would tarnish the 'flourishing' relations between our two countries".

"We wish to state it very clear that there is no way the German government can hope to escape its colonial past in Namibia with its empty slogans and clichés like 'historical and moral responsibility', 'reconciliation', 'deeply regret the atrocities of the past', and now lately the gimmick of the 'special initiative programme', which they have admitted that 'it has not gone well'. It failed, period!" the groups said.

They reiterated their call for tri-partite roundtable discussions between the affected groups and the two governments, in pursuance of reparations for affected communities.

Festus Mundjua of the Herero group said the reparations would include anything repairing the damage done by German colonialism, whether in "cash or kind, apologetic statements, acknowledgement of the damage done".

"It is not just one thing; it is a variety of things all of which have to be determined by us and us alone and not the German government. If you were found guilty, it is not the guilty one to come up with these things like a special initiative," Mundjua said.

The two groups said while the German state has entered into direct negotiations with Israel and Jews all over the world for reparations, which are ongoing, it remains evasive with regard to reparations for Namibia.

"[The] same must also apply to our situation! Any protracted evasion will never put this matter to rest, nor can the German government and/or their representatives here hope to count on forcing our government and our leaders to silence us, for we shall never rest until justice is done!" they said.

Mundjua also commented that German MP Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul's pronouncement at Hamakari in 2004 and other German government officials' statements did not constitute an apology, saying a German apology should be done through an instrument of the German parliament.

The groups further demanded a proper auditing of the German special initiative, despite a N$1,6 million audit which Hewat Beukes of the Nama technical committee called a "gigantic farce", and accusing the German government of not being able to produce an audit on the special initiative to the German Bundestag.

The groups went on to say that it is incumbent on the German government to see to the return of the remaining human remains and other colonial artefacts in Germany under international conventions to which Germany subscribes.

German ambassador Hückmann was also quoted as saying that the German government would not be in a position to influence German institutions to hand over the human remains, but Mundjua said the German state would make itself an accomplice for harbouring these remains if it did not compel these institutions to relinquish those, even by an enactment of law.

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