Namibia: MOU May Be Good Model On Genocide Reparations

Left column: German soldiers Right: Namibian prisoners chained (file photo).

Last week, the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Council for Dialogue, 1904-1908, and the Botswana Society for Nama, Herero and Mbanderu signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The outstanding and striking aspect about this MoU is that descendants of genocide from Botswana are now activated as equals. "The parties... . agree to develop cooperation on the basis of equality, mutual cooperation and mutual benefit", reads the second objective of the MoU.

This means genocide descendants from Botswana are going to represent themselves and/or by their own leaders and on their own terms.

Safe that the MoU is clear that this would be in the areas of cooperation between the two peoples. One needs to emphasise "peoples", meaning genocide descendants from the two respective countries as opposed to cooperation with the Namibian or Botswana. This is a MoU the two governments have as yet to digest, and subsequently take a position on.

Indeed from this understanding and perspective, this is a groundbreaking initiative that only but the most malicious doomsayers on reparations and/or restorative justice can scorn or oppose. This MoU indeed signals unity between and among descendants from within Namibia and in Botswana. Such has been long overdue and illusive.

This is because those at the helm of the genocide movement have been overlooking the essence of constructive unity with their kinspeople in the Diaspora, despite claiming at every opportunity that reparations are for all and sundry. That it is for all Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama, wherever they are.

Patronising hegemonism has been supreme in the tramautised psyche of Namibian leaders of genocide descendants, if not in the benign descendant flocks themselves. Tunnel vision and microscopic approach seems to have the guiding principle.

Reparations and restorative justice champions in Namibia have achieved some milestones in the matter in terms of consciousness and activism.

This is particularly so in making them independent free-thinking activists before they could be expected to be competently and meaningfully campaign. The majority of genocide descendants in Botswana and South African Diaspora have remained distant and peripheral to the issue.

But a caveat is albeit necessary. This MoU cannot be the beginning and the end - especially without the South African Diasporans. Can one really claim that they are effectively on board under the circusmtances? We cannot be satisfied, and therefore complacent, with only having the descendants in the Botswana Diaspora being on board.

Their involvement only seems to have a tacit and reserved backing of their own government in Botswana. For years, Botswana hosted Namibian refugees of the genocidal wars of Imperial Germany, and continues to host many. These many are today unquestionably Batswana albeit of Namibian descent. Thus historically and politically, they are citizens of both countries, Namibia and Botswana. Botswana cannot thus not abdicate its political involvement in this regard to the Namibian government alone, as seems the case now, when her citizens come and make representations on own behalf to a foreign Namibian government.

Until and up to the point that the Botswana government joins the trajectory on behalf of its citizens, there's no way that the Namibian government can represent foreign nationals, albeit historically Namibian citizens as they are.

Otherwise Batswana of Namibian descent may have to represent themselves at the negotiation table and not by the Namibian government. Again this can be contradictory given the positions all along of both the Namibian and German governments on this issue being state-state.

Bottom line, until both the Botswana government, and naturally and for political/diplomatic correctness also the South African citizens of Namibian descent, and their government, joins the genocide and reparations/restorative justice political trajectory, the MoU in question shall only remain an ineffective theoretical construct.

That cannot go any miles to seriously address frontally the issue of genocide and reparations/restorative justice between, crucially the victims of the 1904-1908 genocide in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, backed squarely and unconditionally and forthright by their respective governments. But a sine qua non for this trajectory is unity, even in a minimalist sense. Between and among all the victims and descendants in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Unity is the only catalyst to a smart partnership of the three governments of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa on genocide and reparations. Thus an engagement of the three governments is crucial, and only then can this matter realistically and practically advance to its logical conclusion one day, with the uncompromising proviso that the genocide descendants commonly and uniformly define the agenda.

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