Namibia: 'Aid No Compromise for Reparations'

Newly appointed German ambassador to Namibia, Herbert Beck says Germany's development aid to Namibia is not a tradeoff for addressing claims for genocide reparations.

Beck shared this sentiment with The Namibian during an interview in Windhoek earlier this week on the ongoing reparation discussions between Germany, the Namibian government and the Ovaherero and Nama communities.

More than 100 years have passed since the massacre of approximately 100 000 Ovaherero and Nama people in Namibia by German troops from 1904 to 1908. However, reparation talks between the two countries remain inconclusive since the motion was tabled in the National Assembly in 2006.

Asked whether Germany considers its developmental contributions to Namibia part of compensation for its violent past, Beck was quick to stress that it was not.

"I think the [reparation] negotiations are a clear indication that it is not a trade-off between development cooperation and addressing the plight of the affected Herero and Nama communities. It is not like we give you development cooperation, therefore, you cannot expect anything for those [affected] groups," he said.

Germany only recently accepted responsibility for the violent sins of its colonial past following numerous conferences, court trials and summonses, which landed the two nations in the United States District Court of New York in 2018.

Prior to this, some German government officials had asked for forgiveness for the past atrocities and acknowledged the crime. However, the country refuses to call it genocide.

The process of restitution for those crimes has not been so swift.

In June last year, former German ambassador to Namibia Christian-Matthias Schlaga said Germany conclusively ruled out offering financial compensation to Namibia as reparations.

In September, German minister for economic cooperation and development Gerd Müller said the reparation negotiations between the two countries could soon be finalised.

Beck said he acknowledges the frustration caused by the delays while cautioning that due to the magnitude of the issue, the negotiations need to be thorough and not rushed.

"Good processes take time to make sure that each side understands the other. This is a more forward-oriented process than one that is done hush-hush," he stated.

He added that this might not be a consolation for those individuals and communities involved in the reparation talks.

According to Beck, some of the Ovaherero he has spoken to share a similar sentiment, although there are those who argue differently.

"One part says: we should not rush it, we have to find a good solution that will take care of the next two generations and that takes time. We have to discuss among each other. The others say: But I am 80 years old and I would also like to see something while I'm alive. Between those two poles, the discussion is floating everywhere," he explained.

While Beck could not make any predictions as to how much longer the reparations conversation would drag on, he remains optimistic that the two countries would find common ground.

"I see the willingness of both sides to find a solution for a task that is really complicated, emotional and challenging," he said, adding

that both governments have their expectations and it would take time before all the parties are on the same page.

"You are right to ask how many ambassadors have to come and go before we see final solutions to that [reparations] problem, but it is a matter of having the equal idea of what we are talking about and what we want.

If that is accomplished then things can move very quickly," he said.

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