Namibia: Germany Returns Human Remains From Namibia Genocide

The German government has handed over the remains of indigenous men and women killed during the colonial era. Namibian activists have called on Berlin to apologize for massacring thousands and provide reparations.

The German government on Wednesday handed over human remains of the Herero and Nama indigenous groups from present-day Namibia.

Between 1904 and 1908, German imperial soldiers massacred thousands from both indigenous groups in what has been called the "first genocide of the 20th century."

While the German government has recognized the slaughter of the Herero and Nama groups as a genocide, parliament has not yet followed suit.

No 'legal obligation' to pay

Berlin has also refused to pay reparations. "The German government considers that the use of the term 'genocide' does not entail any legal obligation to reparations, but rather political and moral obligations to heal the wounds. We're sticking to that position," Ruprecht Polenz, the German negotiator in the Namibia talks, told DW two years ago.

Germany argues that hundreds of millions of euros in development aid since it gained in independence in 1990 was "for the benefit of all Namibians."

"We must ensure that after we've reached agreements on damages, recognitions and an apology, there's a future in which the German and Namibian nations join hands and move forward," said Namibian Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa in Berlin.

'Colonial heritage'

Michelle Müntefering, a junior minister for international cultural policies in Germany's foreign ministry, said Berlin still has "a lot of catching up in coming to terms with our colonial heritage."

"We want help to heal the wounds from the atrocities committed by German at the time," said Müntefering. Germany and Namibia are currently in talks to determine how to move forward.

Members of both ethnic groups have filed a class action lawsuit in the US, demanding Germany pay reparations for the massacre. But Berlin is trying to have the case thrown out of court, citing state immunity from prosecution.

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