7 March 2018

Namibia: Open Letter to Ambassador Christian Schlaga

opinion

I am a descendant of the victims of the extermination orders by Imperial Germany aimed at Ovaherero and Nama, which constitutes an act of genocide by virtue of international statutes. I start off my response to you in this way in order to deal upfront with your closing question: what drives me to have written such "outrageous and preposterous" statements in my column two weeks ago.

In your remarks you attempt to distance yourself from the statement of the Namibian Sun newspaper written by Jemima Beukes and published on 4th August 2017. Conventionally, when there is a misrepresentation in the media, which happens often, the aggrieved party complains with the medium in question and demands a public retraction. This you did not do and now that seven months later your remarks have become a matter for public interest, you vainly attempt to push them aside.

I maintain that the statement that was published by the Namibian Sun on 4th August 2017 and attributed to you, which statement said that "Germany believes that the atrocities committed against the Nama and Ovaherero people during the 1904-1907 genocide were justified", is a very dangerous statement and reveals the extent to which you, Your Excellency, and the German government have no remorse, because to you and the government you represent, these actions were justified. To this effect there is nothing outrageous and nothing preposterous about what I said in response to your very dangerous statements.

The Nama and Ovaherero have over the years implored the German government to take center stage so that discussions can start, in conformity with global conventions, specifically the Rome Statutes and the Hague Conventions, to which Germany is signatory and which conventions guide the handling of genocide and reparations globally. Your government has side-stepped these provisions and continues to reduce the genocide and reparations drive to the level of longstanding bilateral relations and development assistance to Namibia, an attitude that reinforces charges that bilateral aid to Namibia regards the genocide and reparations agenda as void.

When I in 2016 wrote you an open letter which you received, I referred to the said report and in humility requested you to express yourself and your silence to date has enhanced confusion and entrenched suspicions on the honorability of the motives for the German government's reluctance to engage the leaders of the victim communities in negotiations for reparations. With your statement in the Namibian Sun as backdrop, it goes without saying that the German regime has no interest in genocide discussions and has no commitment to any negotiations with the victim communities and their government on genocide and reparations. The actual motives of the German regime are encapsulated in your reported statement that as far as the German regime is concerned, the extermination orders of the Nama and Ovaherero, which you call atrocities, were justified because you believe they were in self-defense. So my write-up that Germany remains distant on reparations is closer to the truth than your denials, because already in your denials you talk about finding a language that avoids use of the word 'genocide'.

Namibia's parliament had in September 2006 adopted a resolution that charged Germany with genocide, confirmed the plight of the Nama and Ovaherero for reparations and enjoined the government of Namibia to remain an interested party in the charges and demands in question. The envisaged role of the government of Namibia was further expressed by then Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister Utoni Nujoma, when he said that he saw the role of the Namibian government as mediator between the German government and the Namibian communities affected by the genocide. Yet your government has refused to talk to the leaders of the victim communities and as we speak they are elbowed out of the Windhoek accords, much to their consternation.

This modus operandi must have left the Namibian legislature shell-shocked and the international community amazed into obscurity. But even more, whereas Namibia's legislature has passed a resolution to guide their government on how to deal with the genocide and reparations matters, the German government has to date not legislated on these matters. When your Minister for Foreign Relations came to Namibia and intimated an apology for the genocide, she was rebuked sharply by the German legislature and subsequently lost her position. When the president of the German parliament said in public that what had happened in South West Africa at the time has no other name than genocide, he was shunned.

The motion by German opposition parties on genocide was rejected by the German parliament, because Germany has no commitment to redressing Namibia's past pertaining to the extermination orders and the concomitant expropriations of properties and displacement of the Herero and Nama of South West Africa of the time. Now you understand why I take your statement seriously, because it is in tandem with your tactics. The truth is that, Germany is not interested in genocide but atrocities. Germany is not interested in reparations but in development aid. Evidently this is difficult as you may not want to risk your job. But, let me assure you Your Excellency, that the future will not be what it had been all along.

Namibia

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