Namibia: 'We Will Continue Fighting'

Namibia flag.
28 September 2020

Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro says their fight with colonial power Germany over the 1904-1908 genocide was far from over despite last week's ruling by a US Court of Appeals in New York that threw out an appeal by the Ovaherero and Nama, who sued the German government over atrocities committed in Namibia.

In a court judgement delivered on Thursday, the appeals court upheld the US District Court for Southern New York's decision that it has no jurisdiction to hear the matter under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.

"The terrible wrongs elucidated in Plaintiffs' complaint must be addressed through a vehicle other than the US court system," read the judgement.

The affected communities are seeking reparations over the 20th-century genocide and the right to representation at talks between the German and Namibian governments.

Reacting to the judgement, Rukoro at the weekend vowed to continue fighting.

"This is a marathon not a 100 metres race; there are higher courts ahead. We will be approaching higher courts up until we reach the highest Supreme courts; we will continue fighting. We are still optimistic," Rukoro told his followers in a WhatsApp audio on Saturday.

In January 2017, the Ovaherero and Nama people filed a class-action lawsuit in which they sued Germany for excluding them from current negotiations between the German and Namibian governments concerning the 1904-1908 genocide.

Between 1904-1908, German soldiers killed over 65 000 Ovaherero and an estimated 10 000 Nama in a revolt against land seizures by colonists in what historians and the United Nations have long called the first genocide of the 20th century.

The Namibian government has maintained the current offer for reparations over the 1904-1908 Ovaherero-Nama genocide by their German counterparts remains unacceptable.

About a month ago, President Hage Geingob received a status report from special envoy Zed Ngavirue, who has been heading government negotiations on genocide between Namibia and Germany since 2015.

Between 2015 and 2020, eight rounds of negotiations have taken place, alternating between Berlin, Germany and Namibia.

Moreover, 15 meetings of the Special Political Cabinet Committee (SPCC) on genocide, apology and reparations, chaired by the vice president, have also taken place, according to the Presidency.

Ngavirue informed Geingob that at the conclusion of the eighth round of negotiations in February this year at Swakopmund, the Namibian and German negotiating teams agreed on a draft declaration, stressing a narrative of genocidal events committed by German Imperial Troops in Namibia.

"In that vein, the German government, citing political and moral responsibility, has agreed to render an unconditional apology to the Namibian government, her people - and, in particular, the affected communities. Although genocide is a punishable crime, according to the United Nations Convention on Genocide, signed on 9 December 1948 and effective on 12 January 1951, the German and Namibian government have agreed on a political settlement," the Presidency said at the time.

According to the Presidency, the Namibian negotiating team found the terminology "healing the wounds" inadequate, and that demand is currently discussed under the rubric of "reconciliation and reconstruction programme".

"The terminology, "reconciliation and reconstruction programme", will be submitted for debate and approval to the Special Political Cabinet Committee on Genocide, Apology and Reparations and eventually to the head of state for final approval."

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