Namibia: Chiefs Divided

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

The chiefs of the different Ovaherero and Nama communities are divided over the draft agreement between the Namibian and German governments on the 1904-1908 genocide as the nation awaits vice president Mbumba Nangolo Mbumba to announce government's position on the offer today.

This comes as the two governments provisionally initialled a joint draft declaration detailing Germany's offer of 1,1 billion euros, which translates to N$18,6 billion at today's rates to be paid over 30 years in the form of grants for projects.

The OvaHerero/OvaMbanderu and Nama Council for the Dialogue on the 1904-1908 Genocide (ONCD) yesterday announced that they will be signatories to the joint agreement.

However, the traditional chiefs from the Maharero, Kambazembi, Gam and Zeraeua and Mireti royal houses rejected Germany's offer, saying they want N$8 trillion paid over 40 years and a pension fund for the genocide.

The ONCD and the royal houses have been part of the nine rounds of the negotiations on the genocide.

Despite admitting that the offer is "too little", the ONCD said they will pen their names to the agreement arguing that the negotiations are not about money.

"We resolved to accept this offer because what is paramount to us is not money but the restoration of our dignity," said the chief of Veldskoendraers Dawid Gertze.

Gertze was speaking on behalf of the ONCD yesterday morning during a press conference.

One of the negotiators for Namibia, Freddy Nguvauva, who was also at the press conference, said Germany admitted that they could not do justice to the agreement as a result of the political situation in the country.

In April, The Namibian reported that genocide negotiations may be affected by Germany's elections slated for September this year as the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is currently in power, is up against the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

AfD, the far-right party, said to strongly oppose immigrants and known to have racist views, has a good chance of emerging victorious, the international media has reported.

Nguvauva said Germany promised to give more funds after the elections.

However, the joint draft agreement seen by The Namibian indicates that this would not be possible.

"Both governments share the understanding that these amounts mentioned above settle all financial aspects of the issues relating to the past addressed in the joint declaration," the agreement states.

"I was attending the negotiations when Germany said this. We are not sellouts," Nguvauva responded to questions on whether the amount is final.

According to the council, Germany first offered N$5 billion but the Namibian government said the damage due to the genocide amounted to about N$1,26 trillion.

Meanwhile, the Maharero, Kambazembi, Gam and Zeraeua and Mireti royal houses disputed the council's statement, saying it is not a unanimous decision.

"No council meeting has taken place for this resolution to be passed. It was a decision of individual clans and traditional authorities," Maharero chief Tjinaani Maharero said.

Maharero said the divide between the chiefs started on 20 May 2021, the day the German and Namibian special envoys initialled the joint draft agreement.

Secretary general of the OvaHerero Traditional Authority Mutjinde Katjiua said the government has been lobbying traditional authorities to accept the German government offer.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, the secretary general reaffirmed that the Ovaherero Traditional Authority will by no means accept the offer.

"These factions accepting the offer were part of the delegation that went to Germany to negotiate. We will not accept this offer," he said.

Without giving much detail, Katjiua added that his traditional authority studied the declaration between the two governments and what stands out is the fact that it was a bilateral agreement and not reparations as initially planned.

He went on to say that the entire negotiations process was flawed and the traditional authority rejected it. He questioned the authenticity of Germany's acknowledgement, especially with the notion that they recognise that it was a genocide in 'today's perspective'.

He said the German government has never before acknowledged that Ovaherero and Nama tribes are people but rather regarded them as savages, hence Germany recognising their actions as genocide at 'today's perspective'.

"I'm sure when the prime minister tables the declaration in parliament tomorrow, most if not all of the opposition will walk out," Katjiua stated.

Ovambanderu chief Kilus Nguvauva yesterday said if there are factions who believe his tribe are being sellouts by accepting the deal, they should negotiate further with the German government for a better deal.

"The Ovambanderu people have been wiped out and we are too few to negotiate for a better deal with the German government, but if there are people who feel we are sellouts, they should go and negotiate for a better deal," he said, adding that the two governments have been having the negotiations since 2016 and Germany has always said it acknowledges the genocide and would apologise for the atrocities.

"These talks had been going on for a while, even when I was in politics and my people now have the option to work with what was on the table," the chief said yesterday.

He added that his people have always been part of the negotiations and believe the money offered is not enough but it is something compared to how long the negotiations have been in place.

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