Kuzeeko Tjitemisa/Emmency Nuukala
WINDHOEK/GIBEON – President Hage Geingob yesterday told Germany to extend an olive branch to Namibians for atrocities committed by its forefathers – as part of settling the marathon issue once and for all.
Geingob said the genocide of 1904-1908 is an event which has left a deep scar on the Namibian people.
“The effects of the torture, collective punishment and ultimate racial extermination of Namibians by German imperialist soldiers are felt to this day,” he said.
If the people are to move forward, Geingob said, it is important for the German government to admit the wrongs committed against the people of Namibia.
“In so doing, we expect that the most appropriate admission of this genocide will be the issuing by Germany of an apology which will be acceptable to the Namibian people,” he said during the handing over of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi’s bible and whip at Gibeon, Hardap Region yesterday.
Hundreds of Namibians from all walks of life yesterday flocked to Gibeon to witness the return of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi’s bible and whip from Germany after 126 years.
Kaptein Witbooi, who fought fiercely against German troops in Namibia during the genocidal war of 1904-1908, had his bible and whip confiscated by German soldiers. The artefacts were taken to Germany in the 1900s and held in Germany’s Linden Museum in Stuttgart.
The journey of the returned bible and whip started in Windhoek on Wednesday afternoon as it was convoyed with a Namibian-German delegation led by Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and German Minister of Science, Research and Arts Baden-Württemberg, Theresia Bauer.
The stops included Rehoboth, Kalkrand and Mariental where community members dressed in bright colourful and beautiful traditional attire dancing, chanting and singing, got the opportunity to see the heirlooms that included two skulls of Nama and Herero decent.
/Khowesen clan Captain Salomon Witbooi, who spoke on behalf of the community and family, said he was filled with humility and sorrow but also excited about receiving the heirlooms, adding that this should be a sign of unification and not only for the Witbooi’s but also the nation at large.
A spectacular moment took place as Bauer officially handed over the bible and whip to Geingob as the Witbooi clan looked on.
In turn Geingob handed over the items one by one to the Witbooi clan elders made up of Christina Frederick, Anna Diba, Johanna Witbooi, Elizabeth Kock and Anna Jacobs.
Knowing that they are unable to keep the artefacts the clan allowed that the heirlooms be entrusted to the government.
Hanse-Himarwa received them and they will be returned to Windhoek. Respectfully the bible will be kept at the National Archives and the whip at the National Museum of Namibia for safekeeping and preservation, up until when the Gibeon Heritage Museum can be built.
Geingob said when the forces of imperialist aggression, in the form of the German army under Curt von François decided to invade Greater Namaqualand, today known as southern Namibia, destiny produced a man for the hour.
“A man who would be described by historians as ‘one of the most powerful African leaders at the time when European imperialism began to carve up Africa into colonies’. A man highly revered and affectionately known as Khaob !Nanseb /Gabemab - The captain who disappears in the grass,” Geingob said referring to Kaptein Witbooi.
He said Kaptein Witbooi was born at a time when colonialism was at its zenith.
The powers of that time, he said, were carving up African territory, driven by the lust for resources and subsequent wealth, adding that it was during that period that many Namibian people were separated by boundaries that paid no consideration to the demographics of the region.
“Our ancestors, and all of us present here today, are victims of these indiscriminate annexations; annexations which dispossessed Namibians of their land, by force and without compensation,” said the Head of State.
“It is in the spirit of Hendrik Witbooi that selfless Namibians, the likes such as our Founding Father, former President and other veterans who are here today, launched the armed struggle nearly a century later to restore the dignity of the oppressed people of Namibia.”
Geingob added that it is true that an event such as this will evoke painful memories, given the history of our country, but similarly, the repatriation of the bible and whip of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi is an occasion for Namibia to pay honour to one of its foremost heroes.