Namibia: Germany Faces 'The Sins of Their Forefathers'

Tens of thousands of Namibians, mainly the Nama and Ovaherero, were killed in what is called the first genocide of the 20th century.

As part of its moral responsibility for the colonisation of Namibia and the developments that led to the genocide, Germany has, according to the draft declaration on the recently ended reparations negotiations, asked for forgiveness for the sins of their forefathers.

"Germany apologises and bows before the descendants of the victims. Today, more than a 100 years later, Germany asks for forgiveness for the sins of their forefathers ... it is not possible to undo what has been done," the document, seen by The Namibian, says.

It also revealed that the Namibian government had discussed provisionally accepting the apology for the killings of the Ovaherero and Nama people during the 1904-1908 genocide.

The German government acknowledged that the event where tens of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama people died, including women and children, is a genocide in "today's perspective" and the Namibian government and its people are yet to formally accept Germany's apology.

President Hage Geingob is yet to consult the affected communities but that has been delayed because the president and Mrs Geingos last week tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Press secretary Alfredo Hengari said the consultations have been stopped because of Geingob's positive results. However, prime minister Saraa Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is set to table the report in the National Assembly next week.

"The Namibian government and people accept Germany's apology and believe that it paves the way to a lasting mutual understanding and the consolidation of a special relationship between the two nations," the draft declaration reads in part.

As part of the just-ended negotiations, Germany has offered Namibia 1,1 billion euro (N$18,6 billion at today's exchange rate) to be paid over 30 years, an amount which has been regarded as an insult by the affected communities and their traditional authority leaders.

Traditional chiefs from the Maharero, Kambazembi, Gam and Zeraeua and Mireti royal houses have rejected the German government's offer, saying they want N$8 trillion paid over 40 years and a pension fund for the 1904-1908 genocide.

From the money offered, 1,05 million euro is meant for reconstruction and development support programmes to benefit the descendants of affected communities, while 50 million euro is earmarked for projects on reconciliation, remembrance, research and education.

The declaration went on to say that both governments share the understanding that the amount offered settles all financial aspects of issues relating to the genocide.

Meanwhile, the German government has refused to call them reparations, while Namibia has gone on to refer to them as a form of reparations.

When Namibia, through its special envoy on the genocide, Zed Ngavirue, embarked on the negotiations, the three pillars, which are for Germany to acknowledge the genocide, apologise and pay reparations were the guiding principles.

However, as negotiations were advancing, Ngavirue said instead of reparation, which would mean demanding war indemnities, Namibia and Germany have settled for political negotiations, which are looking at reconciliation and reconstruction.

The focus, according to the document, is that the two countries shall close the 'painful' chapter and forge a new relationship, prioritising the reconciliation and reconstruction process.

There will also be "an appropriate culture remembrance, as well as a new level of political , economic and cultural partnership".

The declaration added that programmes will be implemented in the Erongo, Hardap, //Kharas, Khomas, Kunene, Omaheke and Otjozondjupa regions.

The projects will include land reform (particularly land acquisition), land development, agriculture, rural livelihoods and natural resources, rural infrastructure, energy and water supply, technical and vocational training.

Meanwhile, Hengari could not confirm the document's authenticity.

Colonialism and genocide historian Jürgen Zimmerer last weekend said Germany's acknowledgement of the genocide is long overdue but reconciliation has to be done with the descendants of the victims.

Former bank executive Vetumbuavi Mungunda shared Zimmerer's sentiments, saying the monetary offer is laughable "to say the least'. He said the principles of a restoration of the damage caused by the genocide should be quantified independently and professionally.

"The mechanism of the payment for the reparations of the damage caused cannot be determined by the perpetrator," he said

Former Swanu parliamentarian Usutuaije Maamberua, who also penned a letter to Geingob, suggested that the two governments revamp and redesign the negotiation process.

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