Hundreds of mourners defied Covid-19 public health regulations to bid farewell to Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro, who was laid to rest at Okahandja yesterday.
Rukoro, who died about a month ago in a Windhoek hospital from Covid-19 complications aged 66, was buried at the heroes’ shrine. He has been credited, among others, for championing the cause of the Nama and Ovaherero people in seeking reparations from Germany over the 1904-1908 genocide committed by that colonial power.
Before his burial yesterday, his body was taken to his traditional homestead at his native village of Omutukururu in the Otjozondjupa region. Family members, political leaders, tribal elders and business executives offered eulogies in a virtual ceremony for Rukoro on Friday.
In his message, Nama Traditional Leaders Association Gaob Johannes Isaack said Rukoro followed in the footsteps of his mothers and fathers, and for this reason rejected the reconciliation and reconstruction agreement signed between the governments of Namibia and Germany, no matter what the consequences might be.
“He had two final assignments which he has entrusted to us. We shall fight tooth and nail to nourish the bond between the Nama and Ovaherero people,” he said.
“Equally, we shall fight the continued salient genocide today committed against these two nations. This I promise to the world. I may not see the final freedom of our people, just as PC Rukoro did not see it, but our children and grandchildren shall hold the torch, for it is a long walk to freedom.”
The chairperson of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation (OGF), Nandiuasora Mazeingo said Rukoro chiefly demanded that Ovaherero and Nama, as communities targeted by the German Extermination Orders of 1904 and 1905 respectively, and its execution, which resulted in the first genocide of the 20th century, speak directly with the state of Germany.
“He particularly rejected and abhorred the idea of absolutist representation adopted by the Namibian government, which essentially posits itself as elected into office to represent the wider citizenry on all matters heaven and earth, including those for which it has not expressly sought a representation mandate,” he stated.
In his message, Founding President Sam Nujoma described Rukoro as firm in persuasion and principle, with the acumen and strategic craft to know when, how and why to accommodate the demands of others who were negotiating their way into the setting sun.
After independence, Nujoma appointed Rukoro as deputy minister of justice, a position he served until in 1995 when Nujoma again appointed him to the position of attorney general from 1995 to 2000. Rukoro became a member of the Constituent Assembly of Namibia, where he was one of the main drafters of Namibia’s constitution. Nujoma said Rukoro forged a constitutional legacy that will define the country for generations to come.