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Home / Reparations: Govt, communities at odds... ‘exclusion detrimental’

Reparations: Govt, communities at odds... ‘exclusion detrimental’

2021-05-31  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Reparations: Govt, communities at odds... ‘exclusion detrimental’

International relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah yesterday appealed for “patience” amidst growing criticism over government’s handling of genocide reparations talks.

Speaking to New Era, Nandi-Ndaitwah said Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila will soon brief parliament on the purported genocide agreement reached by Namibia and Germany.

“As you know, genocide talks started in parliament, so let us wait for Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to brief parliament on how far we are regarding this issue. Only then will I be able to comment or explain on this issue. Let us as a nation be patient and wait for the official announcement in parliament next week,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said.  The National Assembly is currently on recess, and is expected back in session next Tuesday, 8 June.   

According to media reports, Germany had for the first time on Friday recognised that it had committed genocide in Namibia during its colonial occupation of the country, with Berlin promising financial support worth more than US$1.3 billion (about N$17 billion) to aid projects in the country. 

However, government is mum on the deal, and representatives of the Ovaherero and Nama communities slammed it as inadequate.

Members of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation (OGF) protested at parliament on Friday, where they handed over a petition to Presidential Affairs Minister, Christine //Hoebes.

Speaking outside parliament, deputy chairperson of the OGF Joyce Muzengua accused President Hage Geingob of hijacking the genocide negotiations through disregard and arrogance.

She said the hijacked genocide negotiations were supposed to be spearheaded by Parliament, a process she claimed was hijacked by the executive, who made it a bilateral engagement between the German and Namibian governments to the “exclusion and detriment” of the affected communities.
Muzengua noted that the state agreed to step in as an observer or mediator when the negotiations were to take place between the affected communities and the German government.

At the same occasion, former Swanu parliamentarian Usutuaije Maamberua called on Geingob to reject the purported deal struck between the German and Namibian governments on genocide.

Also, leaders of the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu and Nama Council for Dialogue on the 1904-1908 Genocide (ONCD) yesterday denounced the reported reparations, saying the deal offered was not enough. 

“It has not been known to us as to how the German government has arrived at their figure of 1.1 billion Euros. We request that the envisaged signing ceremony between the German and Namibian governments be postponed to allow for a conclusive discussion of the delicate issue of reparations for purposes of restorative justice,” said Chief Tjinaani Maharero, Chief Manasse Zeraeua and Kambazembi Royal House Councillor Benestus Kandundu at a joint press conference.

Meanwhile, political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah welcomed Germany’s acknowledgement, saying it’s the right thing to do, is long-overdue and shouldn’t have taken pressure for Germany to finally acknowledge that it committed genocide in Namibia. 

“The fact that Germany tried by all means to avoid acknowledgement puts the genuineness of Germany’s acknowledgement and remorse into question. 

Throughout the process, Germany was not willing and keen on apologising,” Kamwanyah said.

“Therefore, the acknowledgment did not come because Germany wanted to apologise, but rather as forced by external pressure. A true apology must be accompanied by personal accountability by the perpetrator(s), and must never be begged for by the victims,” he stated.

Similar sentiments were shared by political analyst  Gerson Sindano, who said for the German government to finally recognise the extermination of swaths of Nama and Ovaherero people as “genocide” is a monumental and welcome move indeed. 

Going forward, he said the Namibian government should designate a day of the year to be known as Genocide Day as a move to bring closure to one of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century. 

Equally, government should dedicate a directorate within the ministry of veterans affairs to genocide - to be known as the directorate of genocide, Sindano added. 

“This directorate will spearhead all the negotiations related to genocide. The directorate should have the mandate to include the Ovaherero people in the diaspora,” he said.

Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) lecturer, professor Admire Mare, said it’s important that Germany had acknowledged its role in the genocide committed against inhabitants. 

“It’s the first step in peacebuilding. Truth-telling is part of reconciliation and healing. The next step will be to find ways to bring closure among the people affected directly and indirectly by the genocide,” he reasoned.

“Given that this happened a long time ago, without unnecessarily opening old wounds, setting up a truth and reconciliation mechanism will help in terms of bringing about durable peace amongst the affected communities. Obviously, compensation cannot be ruled out, although human life cannot be replaced by money,” he added. 

Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said the acknowledgement of the 1904-08 genocide is groundbreaking in international terms as various countries seek compensation for slavery and colonial-era crimes. 

However, it may have little meaning in Namibia as the affected communities feel left out of the government-led negotiations, and have already indicated they will not accept the bilateral agreement that is being proposed.

“It’s going to be very difficult for the German president to come here and face protests in the street, and possible disruption if he addresses parliament,” he said, adding that the anger among the affected communities about what they have heard the deal contains will have to be addressed first. 

“Otherwise, what is supposed to be a reconciliation agreement will end up inflaming the situation further,” said Hopwood. 

2021-05-31  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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