• November 15th, 2019

Much clarity needed on genocide road shows


Lately a section of the Ovambanderu, Ovaherero and Nama who are associated, or are close to, and in the centre or even on the periphery of the ongoing reparations negotiations between the government of the Republic of  Namibia and the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, are and have been  on road shows countrywide. 

The first of these road shows this columnist is aware of was last Thursday in Okakarara in the Otjozondjupa region, while the latest was yesterday in Gobabis in the Omaheke region. It is not clear what the reason of these meetings are, but one understands that this is to give affected communities  feedback on the progress, or lack of progress as it may be,  on the said talks. These negotiations are and have been between the two governments, borrowing from the hackneyed official explanation that this matter is a state-to-state matter. But ironically the current road shows do not seem or look  government-like, telling from those who seem to have been addressing them hitherto. Other than being purely and more community meetings, of leaders of the affected communities purported or purporting to be at the negotiating table. 

This is as opposed to have been addressed by the government itself, at best, as the chief negotiator, and in the least by Dr Zed Ngavirue, the Namibian government’s envoy on the negotiations on genocide and reparations. If anything the representatives from the affected communities who are said to have been part and parcel of the said negotiations, needless to say, have been mere observers as opposed to being real and substantive negotiators. Thus the essence and nature of the road shows cannot but be bewildering. Even some of the leaders who went on the public broadcaster recently to elucidate more on these road shows, could not but leave this columnist any more wiser about the essence of these road shows. More so given the inhibition and apprehension of these leaders lest they would be letting out anything to the “news”. 

The more they have been trying to explain the more the situation has been a mystery. Especially with regard to the stage where the negotiations exactly are, and whether there has been any agreement on the fundamentals. While one is made to believe that there has been a fundamental agreement on genocide and reparations, it is not clear whether the German government has ultimately agreed that indeed the heinous and brutal atrocities committed on the Namibian people, especially during the heightened period of the genocide against the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama, between 1904 and 1908, was indeed genocide as the international community widely has come to recognise and accept.

On the contrary, the German authorities have been skirting around the fundamental and substantive issues of genocide, maintaining that by modern definition what happened then can and may only be defined as genocide going by modern definition of genocide, and related international legal instruments and conventions. Point-blank this means what happened was and could not have been genocide according to Germany because apparently genocide was then not defined in international law. In the face of this German government’s intransigence to accede  to this fundamental aspect of the negotiations, which is genocide, rightly or wrongly, prudently or imprudently, it seems the Namibian government, if the explanations of the affected communities’ associates is anything to go by, has cowed in to Germany’s perspective albeit parochial and narrow-minded  as it seems.  

Thus, with Germany treating the said ongoing negotiations more as a matter of political morality and/or political exigence, as opposed to a matter of international law as per the 1948 UN Convention of Genocide, it seems Germany is calling the shots subjecting who are supposed to be equal and independent negotiators, the Namibian government in this instance as represented by its special envoy, to its own will, and doings and as much own perceptions and devices of genocide and reparations, the bottom line of which is development projects, and not reparations. 

By this maxim, the ongoing negotiations cannot be about genocide, and the outcome common sense cannot be reparations. In fact this has been the position  of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany from the word go as have come to be epitomised by its evasive political shenanigans  of historic responsibility,  which has been coughed more in the context of the post-Namibian diplomatic relations between the two sovereign nations. Thus alienating such negotiations from the affected communities proper and in their wholeness. And out the real context of the legitimately affected people claiming justified reparations albeit mandating their sovereign government given a specific and clear mandate to be part of the negotiation team.

It does not need a social or political scientist, or a diplomat for that matter but even a cursory ordinary observer can see, hear and read that in deed whatever deal may be hammered sooner or later, it shall and cannot be based on the fundamental demands for reparation of the affected communities. Because everything when one reads into the ongoing negotiations, even without looking at the finer points thereof, points to what the German government all along has been insisting on, development projects. It is an open secret that this is what the affected communities have intermittently been consulted on by the representatives of these communities associated and close to the ongoing negotiations. It is and cannot be any business of the German government for those claiming reparations to justify the quantum of their reparations, let alone what they are going to use reparations for and towards.  But with hindsight, until one attends one of the road show meetings, one can perhaps give whoever is behind them the benefit of the doubt. 


Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
2019-01-25 09:28:52 | 9 months ago

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