Namibia: German Elections Could Derail Genocide Talks

GENOCIDE negotiations, which are still underway between the Namibian and German governments, may be affected by Germany's elections slated for September this year.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is German chancellor Angela Merkel's party, is currently in power, and has been negotiating with Namibia on the genocide.

However, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the far-right party which is said to strongly oppose immigrants and is known to have racist views, has a good chance of emerging victorious, the international media has reported.

Namibia's special envoy on the genocide, Zed Ngavirue, says the progressive forces in the German parliament (Bundestag), such as the CDU, which defends Namibia in genocide debates, are on the decline.

At the same time the AfD is gaining popularity.

Namibia has been in talks with Germany for the past five years, calling on the German government to acknowledge the Ovaherero-Nama genocide of 1904 to 1908, to apologise for the atrocities, and to make reparations.

Namibia, then known as German South West Africa, saw between 65 000 and 100 000 Hereros and 10 000 Namas killed.

Instead of demanding reparations, Namibia has opted for political negotiations.

Namibia last year rejected an offer by the German government, citing it was inadequate.

Ngavirue says if the AfD party wins, they may have a different approach.

He says the government currently has a window of opportunity regarding negotiations and should make use of it while it lasts.

"I think it is a question of us knowing what the AfD is capable of delivering. I do not think they would go back on their word," he says.

Ngavirue says Germany has undertaken to acknowledge the genocide and to render Namibia an apology.

Moreover, the German government has promised to donate funds towards vocational education and housing, among others, he says.

"It is a question of financial and political affordability. Can they carry it through as a government or not? And that is where I feel we were not able to see how far the German government can go," he says.

OFFER REJECTED

Ngavirue says no agreement could be reached during last year's meeting.

"Throughout the negotiations, the Germans kept saying they can have a certain amount for vocational training, housing, and health, and may also consider the issue of land to make a contribution towards the government's policy of willing seller, willing buyer," he says.

The German government at the meeting said it would also want to ensure that their country and people, especially young people, are made aware of the genocide. A reconciliation programme involving exchange students was mentioned, Ngavirue says.

"Negotiations were stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic. We were supposed to go to Germany, but . . . we felt we were not safe," he says.

He says Namibia rejected the offer made at the meeting, because "it is not only about killing, but also about taking the livelihoods of the Herero and Nama people".

PROGRESS

Namibia has drafted a declaration and full description of the genocide upon the German government's acknowledgement of the events.

"They are prepared to render an apology at the highest level, that is from the head of state, to our nation, parliament and the affected communities," he says.

Namibia's objective is that Germany must be willing to help Namibia reconstruct the affected communities.

"It is reconciliation and reconstruction we are seeking. Reconciliation can be of a lasting effect provided our devastated communities are reconstructed, transformed and [the negotiations] should deal with hard issues such as the issue of land," Ngavirue says.

Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila recently admitted that the current pace of negotiations is not satisfactory.

"It is simply as a result of the negotiating partners who want to propose and insist on something different to what we have been asking. Our position is that discussing projects would not stop us from raising the issue," she said.

The government has of late received communication from Germany and is studying proposals, before consulting the affected communities.

AFFECTED COMMUNITIES

The Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) and Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) continue to feel the Namibian government does not adequately represent the conviction of the two groups.

In a joint press statement issued yesterday, the NTLA and OTA said the government is not well-placed to negotiate on their behalf.

"Germany must negotiate with the OTA and NTLA, because we ... cannot be excluded from any serious platform intended to address the plight of our people," the statement read.

The two authorities stood by their earlier demands that Germany needs to admit that the genocide was a crime, apologise and "pay reparations directly".

Meanwhile, Ngavirue said the negotiations are seeking reconciliation and reparations would affect this.

"So I think our decision to negotiate politically was a wise one, and this is the one which, given the fact that we have descendants of the former victors who have become our nationals, we have a relationship with Germany, we thought we should go the route of political negotiations ..," he said.

Ngavirue said international affairs cannot be conducted at community level.

PARLIAMENT DEBATES

Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani recently confronted Kuugongelwa-Amadhila about an offer from Germany amounting to N$1 billion.

"If the negotiations have been stalled, why are we now going to the projects? Is that not an indication that the German partners that are negotiating with us are negotiating in bad faith?" he asked.

National Unity Democratic Organisation member of parliament Joseph Kauandenge suggested Ngavirue's removal.

"It appears there is no leadership to move the talks forward," he said.

Rally for Democracy and Progress leader Mike Kavekotora believes the government does not represent the affected communities in good faith.

"The president was telling Namibia the affected communities should not expect money from Germany, but only projects. Is that the mandate the government was given to go and get projects instead of reparation?" he asked.

GERMANY WANTS TO APOLOGISE

Ruprecht Polenz, the German envoy for genocide talks with Namibia, told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) last year that Namibia needs to signal the way forward in the negotiation process. "Germany would rather apologise today than tomorrow for these crimes," Polenz said. "As it is, when one wants to apologise, one cannot say 'we want to apologise, so get on with it'. The Namibian side should have all the time it needs."Germany has refused to use the word 'reparations' in negotiations.

According to DW, the German government in June last year declined to engage an announcement by president Hage Geingob that it would apologise for the genocide.

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