2 February 2018

Namibia: Timing of Genocide Consultations Criticised

GOVERNMENT's special envoy on genocide reparations, Zed Ngavirue, says the ongoing consultations around the demands for reparations from Germany will continue, despite criticism of the timing.

The Nama people, who are descendants of the victims of the 1904-1908 German genocide, labelled the series of consultations currently happening as disrespectful and unacceptable as they are being done while the Nama are mourning the death of !Aman leader, chief Dawid Frederick, who was one of the people spearheading the reparations' talks.

"Why is government not showing us respect?" He asked, suggesting that government could have held the consultations after Frederick's funeral, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

Ngavirue, however, said "time was not on government's side" as they needed to report to the German government what the expectations of the affected communities were regarding reparations. "We respect the death of a distinguished leader of the nation, but the matter is urgent," Ngavirue stressed.

Genocide reparations technical committee member Freddy Nguvauva said the consultations were initially scheduled for November last year, but had to be postponed because of the Swapo elective congress, which took place then.

Briefing the poorly-attended meeting on the progress of the negotiations between the Namibian and German governments, Ngavirue said the Germans have admitted to the colonial atrocities committed, and have agreed to apologise to affected communities.

However, according to the special envoy, the Germans have rejected the monetary demand by the Namibian government, and said "we will heal the wounds, but not the reparations as such".

He added that Germany suggested spending money on infrastructure development, but stated that the amount of money demanded by Namibia for reparations was too "high".

Ngavirue said this prompted the negotiating parties to engage experts from Namibia and Germany to explore ways to return to affected communities their "dignity, as well as how to get them out of poverty".

"These experts are supposed to start working now," he said.

Responding to a question whether the negotiations would be successfully concluded, Ngavirue remarked: "It depends on God's will."

"I actually cannot say," he confessed. The audience also asked why the Nama and Ovaherero group, led by Ovaherero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro, had decided to seek justice through a New York court instead of being part of the government negotiation team. Ngavirue said he could not speak on their behalf.

"It was a question of doubt and trust about what we do," he added.

Few Keetmanshoop residents attended Tuesday's meeting, following calls to boycott consultations by Paul Thomas, secretary of the Genocide Reparation Technical Committee, through social media.

Meanwhile, the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) in a statement Wednesday took issue with the timing of the consultations as the people were mourning the death of chief Frederick.

"We find it distasteful, disrespectful and an insult that government should choose to conduct meetings while we mourn our father, grandfather, confidante and stalwart," said NTLA chairperson, chief Seth Kooitjie.

"We want to take this opportunity to reiterate that everything done about us, without us, is against us," he charged, arguing that the resolution taken by parliament clearly stated that government should facilitate the reparations talks between the affected communities and the German government.



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