• November 15th, 2018
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Namibia-German relations: A Namibian youth’s perspective

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Fate had it that I would in the course of a few days have three deep and stimulating conversations with some very intelligent individuals, whom I have also come to admire. One was a thoroughly enjoyable lunchtime conversation with a young and very passionate friend by the name of Dr Klemens von Doderer, who is a South African-trained German agricultural economist and also heads the CSU-linked Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung’s local office. A few days prior on an otherwise uneventful Sunday morning, I had a equally stimulating conversation, in which I had probed Ambassador Andreas Guibeb, Namibia’s able representative in Germany, with many long held curiosities. It was with these two conversations still reeling in my mind that I ran into the erudite and gentlemanly Peter Katjavivi, an extraordinary Namibian who has been one of the centers of both pre- and post -independence scholarship and politics of Namibia. As has become customary of my engagements with him, I used the opportunity to draw as much from his perspectives as I could. As pleased as I was at the generosity in his sagaciousness, I left the conversation still defiant and reticent. A single thread informed all these conversations, which thread was the state of Namibia’s relations with Germany. In this article, a bit less reticent yet still deviant, I attempt to make sense of some recent developments in Namibia’s relationship with Germany. Henning Melber and Reinhart Kössler, in an article published in New Era (12th of January, 2018) painted a bleak picture of the current status of the genocide talks. That there hasn’t been any shift in position on the side of Germany in respect to these talks is a disconcerting proposition that raises many question on both the depth and sincerity with which the seemingly acquiescent Ruprecht Polenz, the German special envoy, and his team have been engaging their Namibian counterparts. Considering the centrality of Germany’s colonial past in the calculus that configures Namibia-German relations, it is worth questioning whether the stalled talks may deepen the decline of this relationship. My earlier exchanges on this subject matter have confirmed my suspicion of the antiquated propensity of western diplomacy to pacify and disparage Africans, rather than to pursue deep and meaningful exchange for the purpose of achieving a greater common interest. Africa as a whole or in part has yet to benefit from the “effective multilateralism” of Europe in general, this despite Brussels criticism of Trump for eschewing their conception of multilateralism for his ‘America First’ alternative. The much vilified America First doctrine of President Trump in this instance, trumps Brussels’ “effective multilateralism”, as it doesn’t hide it’s true intent. With Trump, one knows with what and whom one is dealing with. Erstwhile colonial powers in Africa, at the very least, must be completely honest and sincere in their dealings with Africa. Africa also shouldn’t allow Europe to dictate economic relations based on a mere reaction to what Brussels considers to be threats to its strategic interest in Africa, such as immigration control, competition for African resources and the political influence of China primarily and increasingly Russia. Africa’s economic and political relations with Europe and others should be transformative, empowering and sustainable - as these ideals have to date remained largely elusive. Closer to home, I was again and against my better judgment, disappointment that the newly appointed German foreign minister, the social democrat Heiko Maas, did not include Namibia in his much hyped visit to Africa. Instead, he chose to visit Tanzania and Ethiopia, ostensibly because they offer greater economic opportunity for German exports and that they host the East Africa Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU) respectively. Germany’s recent foreign policy posture may be interpreted as viewing its relations with Namibia primarily within the context of the broader multilateralism that is at the center of the Joint Africa -EU Strategy and within the context of the two Merkel era economic development initiatives mentioned earlier. Albeit, against the backdrop of an increasing aversion to cultural pluralism in Europe. There are many conclusions that may be drawn from Maas’s diplomatic snub, as it in the primary instance lays bare the myth that Germany somehow views Namibia in a “special” light and that Namibia therefore enjoys special economic and diplomatic preference at the Auswärtiges Amt , the German Federal Foreign Office. This is nothing but wool over our eyes. There is little political or economic evidence to suggest this to be otherwise. I can point out examples from elsewhere, that have demonstrated greater urgency and desire for deeper economic and political relations with the Namibian people as a whole. The Strategic Comprehensive Partnership recently announced by the People’s Republic of China with Namibia and the concluded Millennium Challenge Account program of the Americans, are but some examples of demonstrated rapprochement that succeeded in demonstrating seriousness in improving relations with Namibia through deep meaningful and transformative bilateralism. China and America have no historical obligation towards Namibia to justify them having to do this, yet they did so. (to be continued)
New Era Reporter
2018-05-30 09:23:51 5 months ago

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