New Era (Windhoek)

13 February 2013

Namibia: Prime Minister Praised On Reparations Question

Oshakati — Congress of Democrats (CoD) leader Ben Ulenga said the time has come for all Namibians to treat the reparations question as a national and not a tribal issue.

The Ovaherero, Nama and other indigenous Namibian communities have been demanding reparations over colonial crimes and attrocities from the German government following the advent of independence. The call for reparations is based on the historical fact that German imperial forces nearly exterminated the Ovaherero in a genocidal campaign during the 1904-1908 war.

At a press conference in Oshakati last weekend Ulenga commended Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob for taking a stand on the question of reparations, saying it now appears as a sign of serious commitment on the part of the Namibian government.

Ulenga said parliament took a stand seven years ago as far as the issue of reparations is concerned, however government always seemed to be hesitant to tackle the issue head on citing significant German development assistance to the country and cordial bilateral relations.

"This issue should be placed on the political and national level where it belongs. It is time we rescue it from the tribal backwaters and propel it to the national forefront," he said.

The CoD president said the German government will never take Namibia seriously if the government itself seems lukewarm on the issue, while at the same time the affected groups seem to be divided over the issue.

"It would be encouraging if senior government leaders, for example the president or the minister of foreign affairs or the prime minister are involved. Unlike when government sent a delegation to Germany accompanied by the [former] Minister of Youth [and Sport Kazenambo Kazenambo], who was a junior minister for that matter. We should not degrade this matter into a cultural issue," said Ulenga.

According to Ulenga, the German government has not been forthcoming concerning the matter and they have not expressed any remorse over the genocide and other atrocities committed against the Herero and Nama speaking people over a 100 years ago.

"If what was reported in the media is true, and that the German Ambassador to Namibia has dared to say that Namibians should keep quiet about reparations, then I really doubt if this is really the most appropriate representative of the German government.

"And if I were Dr [Hifikepunye] Pohamba, I would ask the German government to replace this ambassador with someone else, because what was reported in the media is adding insult to injury with regard to the atrocities committed by the Germans against Namibians. Perhaps Germany has made a mistake, perhaps they have sent somebody who is not looking well after German-Namibian relations," said Ulenga.

Ulenga added that the implementation of projects by the German government without the Namibian government's approval is a clear indication that the Germans do not take Namibia seriously, and the Namibian government needs to step in and take a stand.

Ulenga said it is time the people of Namibia understand that reparations would not only benefit Herero and Nama-speaking Namibians, but Namibia as a whole.

"If the German government builds a university in Okakarara there won't be only Herero children attending it, but any Namibian can study through that university. And if the German government starts giving bursaries to Herero children, the Namibian government will have an opportunity to give bursaries to Namibians from other groups.

"The Germans do not only have to pay reparations, but they need to take action that would lead to restitution, to restore the conditions of human dignity; of the absence of injury that existed before the atrocities were committed. The people need restoration of their wealth and human dignity lost between 1904-1908," said Ulenga.

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