Namibians Angry in Wake of 'Disrespectful' Deal Over German Genocide

Tens of thousands of Namibians, mainly the Nama and Ovaherero, were killed in what is called the first genocide of the 20th century. German troops massacred and displaced tens of thousands of Namibians in 1904-1908.

Descendants of victims of massacres committed by German colonisers -- recently recognised by Berlin as a genocide -- have angrily criticised the agreement between the Namibian government and the southern African country's former rulers.

Germany recently acknowledged that colonial era settlers had carried out a "genocide" against indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.

The official use of the word "genocide" was part of a landmark agreement with the Namibian government after five years of talks over the massacres.

Germany also offered what it called "development" funds -- pointedly avoiding the word "reparations" -- of 1.1 billion euros to be paid over the next 30 years.

But the terms and wording of the proposed "reconciliation" deal, which requires parliamentary approval, have raised ire among Herero and Nama representatives, who claim they were never invited to the negotiation table.

"It's a slap in the face," lamented Namibian economist Salomo Hei, whose forefathers were murdered in the early 20th century.

"It was handled in a very clumsy manner," Hei said in the capital Windhoek. "There was no regard for the human lives lost."

Descendants of victims feel ignored

"We heard the announcement over the radio and newspapers," said Esther Muinjangue, former head of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation.

"It was never discussed with us," said Muinjangue, who is also deputy health minister, criticising Germany for not directly compensating affected groups.

German imperial troops descended on Herero and Nama people after they rebelled against colonial rule.

In August 1904, soldiers chased around 80,000 Herero into what is now known as the Kalahari Desert, raping women and slaughtering their captives.

Months later, the German military commander, general Lothar von Trotha, ordered troops to exterminate both groups.

At least 60,000 Herero and around 10,000 Nama were killed. Thousands more were sent to concentration camps.

Call for German accountability

Descendants of the victims want Germany held accountable for the ripple effects of the genocide, which uprooted communities and destroyed livelihoods.

"When I drive back to my village I drive through hectares of commercial farms (no longer) owned by Herero people," said Hei, noting longstanding "income disparities" between the Nama, the Herero and the rest of Namibians.

Nama activist Sima Goeieman said the agreement was "disrespectful" and "dug the knife deeper" into historical wounds.

"Social projects are not going to do anything about the trauma," she said. "You want to tell me that 1.1 billion euros in development aid is a way of showing remorse?"

Muinjangue, an opposition politician whose grandfather was the result of a rape by a German soldier, questioned the settlement.

"How did they quantify the loss of lives, the loss of cattle and land?" she asked.

A body representing Herero and Nama communities has rejected the "insulting amount" and called on the government to renegotiate the deal, which will be discussed in parliament in Windhoek next week.

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