13 April 2018

Namibia: German Aid No Replacement for Reparations - Geingob

Windhoek — The current German development aid to Namibia is not a replacement for the reparations being demanded by government as per the aspirations of the Ovaherero and Nama communities, President Hage Geingob said Wednesday in response to a question by the opposition.

This despite talks last week that an agreement between the two governments to forfeit the payment of reparations in exchange for aid existed before independence.

"We are very clear that genocide was committed - there is no way that this government, as rumours are going around, as we are being accused, will take German aid as the replacement for genocide," said Geingob.

He was responding to a question on genocide posed by Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani during the question and answer session after the president delivered the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in parliament.

"So please, whoever is preaching this propaganda, forget it, we are not saying that German aid is a replacement for reparation. Germany is saying that but not us, but we will never come close to that," Geingob said.

Since 1990 Germany has availed developmental assistance in various forms to Namibia, worth N$13 billion in total.

This aid, however, is perceived by some to be a form of reparations for the genocide committed against the Nama and Ovaherero/Ovambanderu.

Geingob urged the affected communities to support the government's genocide reparations special envoy, Zed Ngavirue, saying that Ngavirue is a diplomat with experience in negotiations.

"Ngavirue is not a sell-out, he will never sell us out," he said.

Meanwhile, Ngavirue and his delegation are expected to meet his German counterpart, Ruprecht Polenz, in Germany soon.

This will be Ngavirue's sixth engagement with Polenz, following five previous meetings between the two envoys, to prepare the framework for substantive negotiations.

The talks between the two governments come after the Ovaherero and Nama communities demanded reparations for the genocide committed by German colonial forces in what was then known as German South West Africa.

On January 5, 2017, Ovaherero Chief Vekuii Rukoro and the head of the Nama traditional authorities, the late David Fredericks, filed a class action lawsuit in New York.

The genocide case in New York has since been postponed to May 3 at the German government's request. Germany made its first appearance in the US court after it had rejected the summons since 2017.

Germany ruled South West Africa from 1884 to 1915. Incensed by the settlers stealing their land and cattle and taking their women, the Ovaherero launched a revolt in January 1904, killing 123 German civilians over several days. The Nama soon joined the uprising.

The colonial rulers responded ruthlessly. General Lothar von Trotha issued his notorious extermination order against the Ovaherero and Nama.

Captured Nama and Ovaherero died from malnutrition and exposure to the elements. Many were beheaded and their skulls sent to research institutes in Berlin.

Up to 80,000 Ovaherero lived in Namibia when the uprising began, but only 15,000 were reportedly left after the sustained killing campaign, historical research has shown.

Germany has handed back dozens of the skulls of its Nama and Ovaherero victims, but Berlin has repeatedly refused to pay reparations, saying the hundreds of millions of euro in development aid granted to Namibia since independence in 1990 was "for the benefit of all Namibians".


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