17 March 2017

Namibia: Government Makes U-Turn On Genocide

Photo: Pambazuka
German soldiers loading skulls and bones of massacred Herero into a casket for shipping to Germany.

THE Namibian government has decided to join calls for genocide reparations by driving a N$400 billion lawsuit against the German government.

Documents seen by The Namibian this week show that the government wants over US$30 billion (over N$400 billion) from Germany.

The government has, through the office of the attorney general, engaged lawyers from England and Namibia to craft the genocide demands.

Over 65 000 people are believed to have been killed when colonial Germany crushed a Herero and Nama uprising between 1904 and 1908.

The Namibian government has always steered clear of demanding reparations, but has now changed its stance. Senior sources said the government wants the group suing the German government in the USA to join them in the legal battle to force Germany to pay for the sins of their ancestors.

Officials said the state wants the group to team up with the government in dragging the German government to the International Court of Justice in The Netherlands regarding the genocide case.

According to sources, Namibia is planning to use over eight attacking points in their demand for reparations against Germany, including slave labour, death, sexual abuse, human trafficking, theft of land and loss of rights to self-determination. This includes psychological effects, a source claimed.

The legal team also looked at possible questions from Germany during the negotiations on their reluctance to pay the money to the government, the form of payment, and explaining that the actions by the Germans were passed on to generations without recourse.

Attorney general Sacky Shanghala declined to comment when asked about the estimated reparation amount, but admitted that he has appointed a team made up of mostly European lawyers to do research on the matter.

"Lest we be accused as a government that we did not do all that we could have done to ensure that we represented the sacrifices of those who were brutally killed, and those generations that continue to suffer as a result thereof," Shanghala stated.

He said he is looking forward to positive agreement on the genocide matter through diplomatic channels.

"As I indicated, we remain positive with the hope that the conscience of the German people will guide their government's attitude to a conclusion that grants all of us, Namibians and Germans, a dignified closure to the matter," he added.

Shanghala said taking into account the complexity of the matter and the unquantifiable value of the lives lost, it cannot be said that the government is "not doing enough, politically, legally or otherwise to champion the cause of restorative justice as far as the genocide matter and Germany's responsibility are concerned".

The question of how the government decided to arrive at N$400 billion is unclear, but sources close to the Office of the Vice President said the case can revolve around the German government disregarding human rights law.

The issue of genocide reparations has divided the country, to such an extent that the people representing the victims have formed their own committee, which has been travelling to Germany to negotiate.

Paul Thomas, the technical committee secretary representing the reparation talks, told The Namibian yesterday that paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation (OGF) and Ida Hoffmann, the chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee, are in New York for the case that they filed against Germany early this year.

Thomas added that they are aware that the government has been seeking to ask for US$30 billion in reparations from Germany, but said it is an attempt from government to bail itself out.

Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua said the US$30 billion estimate needs rethinking, and declined to comment on whether it was sufficient or not.

According to him, there is a need for the Namibian government to include experts from the United Nations as part of the negotiations. This, according to him, is because most of the treaties are linked to the United Nations.

"In order to be fully informed, the government should consult the affected communities, and not only reparation committees," Maamberua said.

This is not the first time that the Ovaherero have taken the genocide matter to a court in the United States of America after the Chief Hosea Kutako Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2001 against the German government demanding US$2 billion and another US$2 billion from Deutsche Bank and Woermann Line (now known as SAFmarine).

The foundation, then headed by Herero paramount chief Kuaima Riruako, accused the German companies and the government of forming a "brutal alliance" to kill over 65 000 Hereros and Namas.

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