Namibia: 'Genocide Deal Reflects Crime Denial'

Germany genocide in Namibia (File photo).

The Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) and the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) say the 1904 to 1908 genocide declaration recently concluded between Namibia and Germany reflects the latter country's denial that the genocide was a crime.

This comes after the two traditional authorities wrote to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, requesting its intervention in the recently concluded joint declaration between the two governments.

The agreement stated that Germany would acknowledge the genocide, undertake that their federal president, FrankWalter Steinmeier, would render the affected communities and Namibia at large an apology, and would pay Namibia over N$18 billion towards reconciliation and development.

The Nama-Herero genocide saw roughly 65 000 Ovaherero people and 10 000 Nama people killed by German soldiers.

Apart from this, those who survived were placed in concentration camps where some eventually died of starvation, while others fled to neighbouring countries and abroad.

In their request to the committee, the two traditional authorities, represented by their secretaries general Mutjinde Katjiua (OTA) and Deodat Dirkse (NTLA), said because Germany stated they recognise the genocide in "today's perspective" this means they do not recognise any obligation to make reparations in the current reconciliation agreement.

"This rather presents the services to Namibia as a voluntary aid action, to financially support social projects in the regions affected by the genocide. In this sense the acknowledgement reflects a denial that it was a crime in 1904 and 1905 when it was commissioned and executed against Ovaherero and Nama people, respectively," the request read.

The two authorities are stating that intervention is needed because it has been adopted without the active self-representation and participation of the two indigenous communities.

Moreover, they say there has been no attempt to map out the descendants of the victims of the crime, nor any effort to directly engage with the two communities.

"The scope of the agreement is more of a development plan for the Republic of Namibia rather than a reparation for the victims' communities," the request stated.

They added that a community-framed reparation agreement is likely to be materially different from that proposed by the Namibian government.

The two authorities with their partners, the European Centre for Constitutional & Human Rights, and the Minority Rights Group, urged the committee to act under its early warning measures and urgent-action procedure in the context of the agreement.

It is alleged that the agreement is set to be ratified and signed by the two governments in September.

The joint declaration is scheduled to be ratified as a final settlement.

"We urge the committee to address this matter with urgency," the document read.

Jürgen Zimmerer, a historian of German descent, last week said Germany should consider delaying the final discussions on the agreement if they take reconciliation and atoning for the genocide seriously.

He said this is as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed little over 2 000 deaths, including the genocide special envoy Zed Ngavirue and the genocide negotiations' biggest critic, Ovaherero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro.

Zimmerer said that if Germany wants to take reconciliation seriously, it should protect Namibians against the pandemic through making vaccines available.

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