Genocide: Real, robust and honest conversations overdue

Home Focus Genocide: Real, robust and honest conversations overdue

On the sidelines of a conference titled Colonial Repercussions: Reflecting on the Genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama Peoples 115 Years Later, held in Windhoek last week at the Goethe Institut Namibia, US- based Jephta Nguherimo, a co-founder of the Institute of the Nama, Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama Genocide (ONGI) in the USA, interestingly observed that these days, if ever, Namibians more often talk about rain than they do about genocide and reparations. 
Ironically in the afternoon sessions dealing with the role of artists in coming to terms with the past and another session addressing remembrance and addressing past wrongs, the issue of conversations featured prominently. 
Indeed one cannot agree more that conversations have been few and far between on the issue of genocide and reparations. Within and between the Namibian and German governments on the one side, and the affected communities, both those within current negotiations, outside, the excluded as they themselves have been maintaining. As much the two governments should have been conversing with German-speaking Namibians whom many are assuming or have been assuming to be  the blue-eyed of this government. Equally it is uncertain to what extent the Namibian government has tried to reach them or has been reaching them. 
Not to mention conversation(s) or would-be conversation(s) within the affected communities themselves, which also have been awfully lacking if non-existent. Understandably so given the schism and apparent divide between excluded and included sections of the affected communities, be they from whatever ethnic origin Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama. In fact from the very beginning of the Namibian government seizing the initiative, that led to the current negotiations, the right beginning must have been a national conversation(s) on the matter before the establishment of the various existing committees.  To gain various sentiments on the matter. 
Likewise conversations on genocide and reparations have conspicuously been missing between the Namibian government and the local affected communities and its intelligentsia and the intelligentsia in general. Last but not the least, and perhaps most critical the conversation between descendants of the victims and those of the perpetrators, meaning descendants of German-speaking Namibians and fellow citizens from the affected communities of Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama. Not to mention the conversation between the affected communities in the Diaspora with the Namibian government and also between and among the affected communities in Namibia and their Diasporan kinspeople. 
Talking about conversation(s), especially among and within the affected communities, particularly between the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu, one is reminded of that historic meeting between Ovaherero Paramount Chief, late Kuaima Riruako, and Ovambanderu Chief, late Munjuku II Nguvauva in Gobabis on June 03, 2004. The subject of this rare meeting between the two leaders, and may their souls forever spirit the reparations struggle, was for the Ovambanderu to embrace the reparations struggle as their own as people who were also part of the genocide committed against the Namibians by Imperial Germany. Its centenary of which was to be commemorated that year in August in Okakarara, close to the actual battlefield of Ohamakari. That was the beginning of the various conversation(s) between the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu, among the Ovaherero, which eventually led to the momentous centennial commemoration of the Battle of Ohamakari in August 2004. The conversation(s) between the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu was later to be buttressed when Ovambanderu Paramount Chief, late Keharanjo II Nguvauva appointed men and women to the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation (OGF). Whether this conversation of which the foundation was laid by the two Ovambanderu Paramount Chiefs continues, and strongly so under current Ovambanderu Paramount Chief, Aletta Karikondua Nguvauva, is there for everyone to judge. 
As to the conversation(s) among and within the Ovaherero regarding the genocide and reparations issue, it is fair to say it has been latent if non-existent altogether. As much one cannot but also doubt the conversation(s) between the affected communities in Namibia and their fellows in the Diaspora of Botswana and South Africa, with various strands of the affected communities in Namibia claiming one or the other section of  fellows being squarely with them, if not behind them however distant. Reference in this regard is apt to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Botswana Society for Nama, Herero and Mbanderu and the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama Council for Dialogue on the 1904-1908 Genocide (ONCD 1904-1908). 
The implementation of this MoU, and thus its full effect, to say the least, is still work in progress if not in paralysis and an illusion, save that it is hard to see the full realisation thereof in practice without a similar or parallel  government-to-government initiative on the same lines, let alone the engagement of Namibia and Botswana at the government level on genocide and reparations in view of the fact that those affected cut across the borders of the two countries. Also some members of the affected communities from both Botswana and South Africa have thrown their weight behind their fellows from Namibia in their campaign for reparations, notably the Class Action in court in New York in the United States of America (USA). Rightly so given the fact that they are not Batswana or South Africans by choice but because of the wars against Imperial Germany as a result of which their forebears eventually found themselves refugees in the two countries where subsequent generations have been born. But can there be said to have been real conversation(s) between Namibians and those in the Diaspora for those in the Diaspora to have been a free informed choice in this regard?