04 Mar 2014 18:40pm
By: Olavi Haikera
FREIBURG, 04 MAR (NAMPA) - The first 14 of 35 Namibian skulls kept at the University of Freiburg in south-west Germany were handed over to a Namibian delegation which is being led by Youth, National Service Sports and Culture Minister Jerry Ekandjo on Tuesday.
Shortly before the official handing over ceremony in Freiburg, a minute of silence was observed in honour of the fallen Namibian heroes and heroines.
An official handing over document was also signed by the rector of the University of Freiburg, Professor Hans-Jochen Schiewer and Esther Mwoombola /Goagoses, who is the head of the National Museum of Namibia and also chairperson of the National Heritage Council.
Schiewer said during the ceremony the unlawful acquisition of the human remains is one of the darkest chapters in the history of European science and the University of Freiburg.
Professor Schiewer said as rector of the university, he deeply regrets what was done in the guise of science.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders, Chief Immanuel Gaseb stated that the handing over and repatriation of human remains of Namibian patriots is a step in the right direction as it will lead to full disclosure of what really happened and ultimately, to genuine apology and reconciliation.
Chief Gaseb was of the opinion that the received remains will open further avenues of cooperation and disclosure of other Namibian remains and cultural artefacts elsewhere in Germany for repatriation to Namibia.
He went on to say the German government should understand the genuine desire for reconciliation and demand for compensation and reparation by Namibian communities.
These are demanded against the background of the atrocities committed by your German colonial government and the impact of the German colonial government on the whole of Namibia, Chief Gaseb stated.
Ekandjo meanwhile indicated that while Namibia is sorrowful about the darkest chapter in the history between Namibia and Germany, the handing over presents an opportunity to learn from history and commemorate the victims of colonialism.
He said Namibia is committed to pursuing justice and reconciliation.
The 14 Namibian men, women and children before us were not only martyrs in the struggle for justice, but also victims of racially motivated brutality and subjugation under German colonialism. As we repatriate their mortal remains to their motherland, it is our belief that in being reunited with their ancestors and descendants, their souls will rest in peace and they will finally be accorded the dignity they deserve, the minister said.
Ekandjo noted that the atrocities committed in Namibia during the period of German colonial rule were despicable, callous and racist in nature, thus they will always be regarded by all Namibians as crimes against humanity.
Theminister stressed that to the Namibian government, it is of paramount importance that it fulfils the moral and ethical obligation to continue the search for human remains in German government institutions in order to ensure their safe return to Namibia.
The handing over of the remaining 21 skulls and three skeletons will take place on Wednesday, at the Charite University in Berlin.
The first repatriation exercise was carried out in October 2011, and saw 20 skulls returned to Namibia from Germany.
The repatriation follows a protracted battle by members of the OvaHerero/OvaMbanderu and Nama people, led by their various traditional leaders, with German government authorities to have the skulls released.
It is believed that the skulls were transported to Germany sometime during the 1904-1908 genocide to be used in purported research to prove that white people are superior to Blacks.
The delegation is expected to return home on Thursday.
Other members of the delegation are Nzila Mubusisi, a heritage officer of the National Museum of Namibia; Phillip Tjerije, the Special Advisor on Traditional Matters to the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development; as well as Natangwe Asino, the personal assistant to the Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture Minister.
Namibian Ambassador to Germany Neville Gertze and his first secretary Helena Eiseb; Alexa Kintu who is the assistant to Gertze; as well as former German Ambassador to Namibia Egon Kochanke also witnessed the event.
Prior to the handing over ceremony the Namibian delegates viewed the 14 skulls, which were placed in small white boxes on a table covered with a Namibian flag.
Ekandjo is scheduled to hold talks with the State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office Stephan Steinlein on Wednesday.
The Namibian Government is organising an official ceremony at Parliament Gardens in the capital to receive the skulls.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba is expected to accord the remains of the fallen Namibian nationals a fitting welcome home and the public will have the opportunity to view the remains and perform all the traditional and religious rituals required.