20 March 2017

Namibia: AG Defends N$36 Million Genocide Legal Bill

ATTORNEY general Sacky Shanghala hired Namibian and European lawyers for N$36 million to research and review documents on genocide in order to advise the government on how to approach Germany over the issue.

The Namibian reported on Friday that government wants over N$400 billion from Germany for the killing of over 65 000 Ovaherero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.

Shanghala said he contracted the services of Namibian advocates Sacky Akweenda and Anna Uukelo, who is based in England.

Uukelo has been working in England for the past 12 years and she also owns a company called Olupale Energy Namibia.

Shanghala said the others are European advocates such as human rights lawyers Dexter Dias and Paul Clark of Garden Court Chambers. He also hired international law experts Cameron Miles and Richard Reynolds.

The attorney general's 2017/18 budget reflects N$36 million as legal fees, excluding Akweenda's dues.

According to Shanghala, he chose the lawyers because of their expertise and suitability.

"It may be asked why I engaged external lawyers. The simple reason is that for such an important matter, having noted that Germany is very committed at ensuring that there is no legal culpability attached to their conduct in the yester-year (this is their right), I needed expertise to buttress our skills locally," he said.

Shanghala said, knowing that Germany is a major contributor to the development of European law and international law, he needed services of legal experts familiar with European and international law.

Treasury sources said the finance ministry questioned how the figure went up to N$36 million while the international relations ministry was furious that the attorney general did not inform them that the state is using lawyers from London to help with the genocide talks.

Shanghala said the cost of English lawyers was high because the state was quoted in British pounds but the fee was worth it.

"The attorney general regrets the high cost of expertise on account of currency exchange but affirms that the work produced aided Namibia and its envoy in the negotiations," he said.

A source from the vice president's office claimed that the N$36 million legal fee is reasonable considering the N$400 billion reparation demands and the research put into the final legal report.

Vice president Nickey Iyambo issued a statement on Friday saying that they had submitted a report to Germany on 6 July 2016 on genocide, an official apology and reparations.

This, he said, is proof that the government has not steered clear of negotiating with the Germans.

"We trust the government of Germany is giving serious attention to the position contained in the said document, supplemented by the exchanges in the meetings we have had so far," the vice president said.

According to him, Namibia has no reason at this stage to take Germany to any court. There were concerns that the descendents of genocide victims are excluded from the diplomatic talks between the two countries.

Iyambo insisted that government has the full support of the descendants of genocide victims including the Ovaherero and Nama communities as well as other affected communities.

"The only invitation extended to the group (representatives of victims) that is currently not participating in the bilateral negotiations has always been to join in the diplomatic negotiations that are currently at an advanced stage," Iyambo said. He said government is committed to work with Germany to bring about an "amicable closure to this sad history on the basis of the principles of mutual trust and humanitarianism".

The vice president did not deny the demand for N$400 billion by Namibia but said "the form of acceptable apology and meaningful quantum of reparations are serious and sensitive issues that cannot be a matter of speculative journalism".

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