Remarks by Hans-Christian Mahnke, British High Commission to Namibia
on the occasion of the official launch of the exhibition “Changing History. World War I & Namibia”
09 July 2015, Khorab Lodge, Otavi
I am delighted to be with you all today and pleased to be able to be part of tonight’s exhibition opening and to have the honour to launch the exhibition called “Changing History. World War One & Namibia”.
Today, as we launch the mobile exhibition exactly 100 years after Germany and South Africa signed the surrender agreement on 09 July 1915, near the historic site of the German surrender, ending the war at least locally, there is time for us to commemorate the fallen soldiers and civilians globally.
World War One was the bloodiest conflict the world had known until then. Between 1914 and 1918 about 17m soldiers and civilians worldwide were killed, and these include 750,000 British and Commonwealth troops.
Thank God the wars fought between the conflicting nations nowadays are "unthinkable".
Today, I drove here to Otavi together with Mr. Kinne, Charge d’Affaires of the Germany Embassy. The fact that the German Embassy and the British High Commission are here today together and that other nations, then enemies, are here too, bears testimony to the power of reconciliation which has taken place over the last 100 years.
Throughout 2015, the First World War Centenary is being commemorated globally. As one of the countries outside of Europe that was drawn into the war, implicated by the situation that was transpiring in the Union of South Africa, the country that was to invade and occupy German South West Africa, Namibia’s history warrants inclusion in the worldwide WWI centenary commemorations.
Hence I am pleased that the British High Commission, as part of the UKs Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s First World War Centenary Commemoration Programme activities, was able to support the Museums Association of Namibia’s work to highlight the centenary locally and educate young Namibians, in particular, on the impact of these events on Namibia’s history. The exhibition raises awareness of the global impact of World War One and the dramatic consequences of the war for Namibia. It further helps to explain the historical roots of the relationship between Namibia and the UK and the reason why Namibia is a member of the Commonwealth.
As the exhibition will be available to museums and schools around Namibia, I think that will be a great initiative and really welcomed by schools, teachers and pupils.
The centenary commemorations and the nature of the exhibition, being a mobile one, will also provide the foundations upon which to build an enduring cultural and educational legacy around the country, to put young people front and centre in our commemoration and to ensure that the sacrifice and service of a hundred years ago is still remembered in a hundred years’ time.