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Genocide: Govt wanted N$1.1 trillion… Germany initially offered N$4 billion

2021-06-07  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Genocide: Govt wanted N$1.1 trillion… Germany initially offered N$4 billion

More details have emerged from negotiations between Namibia and the German government over the Ovaherero and Nama genocide committed here during colonial rule more than a century ago. Although the two countries settled for an offer of N$18 billion, which will now see Germany fund projects in Namibia over 30 years to atone for its role in genocide and property seizures, a member of the Namibian negotiating team, Ebson Uanguta, has provided some behind-the-scenes insight, including the initial Namibian proposal of N$1.1 trillion that was rejected by the European nation. 

Uanguta, who chaired the economic sub-committee on genocide, said the Namibian negotiating team initially submitted an amount of N$1.1 trillion to the German negotiating team as losses incurred by the affected communities during the 1904-1908 genocide. “We estimated the losses of what had been incurred by the affected communities during 1904-1908. And when we did those calculations, we looked at quite a number of things, which were the loss of land, loss of livelihood, loss of lives and also the loss of some other properties. That brought us to N$1.1 trillion,” he explained on Friday during a media briefing at State House. According to Uanguta, Germany had initially offered 298 million euro (N$4.92 billion), which the Namibians rejected. 

The Germans later improved the offer to a meagre 300 million euro (N$4.95 billion), which was also rejected before offering 700 million euro (11.56 billion). This offer was also rejected by the Namibian government, leading to prolonged negotiations, which lasted over five years. “They later came back to say look, based on this, we are going to add what is called a concessional loan, an amount close to 780 million euro that will be used for a water desalination project, and it is going to be concessional at 2%. We rejected because we are talking about issues of genocide, and a concessional loan has no room in this”, added Uanguta, who is also the deputy governor of the Bank of Namibia (BoN). He said the German negotiating team was not fond of the issue of land, but the Namibian negotiating team insisted, and the issue of land brought the final offer to about N$18 billion.  


Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, who announced government’s position on the issue on Friday, also said the initial offers made by Germany were “totally unacceptable”.  “I am fully aware that the reparation amount was always going to be a highly contentious issue,” he told journalists at State House. “In 2016, the Namibian government submitted a quantum for reparations to the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. This quantum was the total calculation of the loss of life, ancestral land, livestock, cultural properties and heritage of the Ovaherero and Nama communities between 1904-1908. The German government gave a counter-offer of a lesser amount. It was for these reasons that negotiations took more than five years due to numerous counter-offers from Germany, which were totally unacceptable to Namibia. This situation almost led to a deadlock and inconclusive talks”, Mbumba explained.

He said the N$18 billion offer agreed may not be adequate enough to address the initial quantum of reparations initially submitted to the German authorities. “However, in any negotiation, and based on the principle of give and take, the government of Namibia believes that the amount, even if it is not enough, shows Germany has agreed to commit to revisit and renegotiate the amount as the implementation of the reparations ensues. The implementation will also be subjected to a periodic impact assessment and evaluation at agreed intervals. This assessment will be done with the objective to ascertain whether the primary objective of the reconciliation and reconstruction programmes of improving the livelihoods of the affected communities had been achieved”, he noted. 

Mbumba also broke down the value of the construction programmes that will benefit the descendants of the affected communities. This includes N$820 million for reconciliation, N$2.1 billion towards renewable energy projects, N$2.4 billion for vocational training, and N$1.6 billion for rural roads. The agreement with Germany also includes N$2.1 billion for rural water supply and sanitation, and a whopping N$8.8 billion towards land acquisition and training.


Analysing the agreement by the two countries, former Standard Bank Namibia CEO Vetumbuavi Mungunda claimed the outcome of the discussions with Germany was “a ‘whitewash’ for the Germans, and complete annihilation of the Namibian negotiation team”. “They will get an apology for acknowledging only to a qualified version of the genocide, whilst paying only 0.5% of the demanded amount,” he added. Therefore, he said this was not a ‘give-and-take’ as is normal in negotiations, but a ‘give-give-give’ from the Namibian negotiations team and a ‘take-take-take’ from the Germans. “The outcome of the agreement is the worst possible outcome for Namibia, and will not be a good example for Namibia in international negotiations. I am not sure about our country’s track record in international trade agreements and treaties, but the genocide is not a pretty case study at all. The best will be to refresh the negotiations,” he wrote on his Facebook page. 


Meanwhile, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani on Saturday said the commitment of 1.1 billion euro was “laughable” with regards to the people of Namibia.

“That amount is lower than the development aid that Germany has availed to Namibia since independence. In fact, what we are being offered is a slap in the face. This deal that has been struck is computationally inaccurate. I must stress that you cannot quantify and allocate values to the trauma suffered by the Ovaherero and Nama people. What monetary value can one place on the cultural and social structures that have been lost? Of course, one can allocate values to the dispossessed land and material possessions. However, should we do that, it would not equate to that ridiculous 1.1 billion euro”, Venaani stated.

The opposition leader, who is also a descendant of those killed during the genocide, demanded a respectable deal from the German government, saying Germany has institutional memory best-placed to present a fair working deal. “German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer presented a respectable and fair deal, in 1951, when he committed to paying “moral and material indemnity” for the “unspeakable crimes…committed in the name of the German people” during World-War 2,” Venaani said. The following year, he added, that government signed a set of reparations agreements with Israel and an umbrella group of advocates known as the Claims Conference. 


2021-06-07  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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