Genocide victim descendants say they will not be deterred

20 Jul 2016 18:00pm
WINDHOEK, 20 JUL (NAMPA) – No amount of threats directed at descendants of the genocide against Ovaherero and Namas committed 1904 to 1908 will deter them from pursuing their demands for apology and reparation.
Addressing a Wednesday media conference on the debate surrounding the negotiations on the genocide committed by the German colonial forces, Nama/Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Technical Committee Chairperson Utjiua Muinjangue said no amount of threats directed at them would persuade them from pursuing the issue.
“We are being threatened, our movements are being followed and our phones are being tapped, but this will never deter us from pursuing what we believe in,” she said without elaborating on who is threatening them.
Two weeks ago, Germany’s special envoy in the reparation negotiations was in Namibia and announced that his country would formally apologise to Namibia and that reparations would be done through the funding of development projects in education and infrastructural development amongst many. He stressed that there would not be a lump sum or direct exchange of money involved at all.
The German government has first to recognise as genocide the massacre of 110 000 Herero and Nama people by German troops between 1904 and 1908 in a landmark admission of historical guilt.
Germany’s Special Envoy for the reparation negotiations Ruprecht Polenz said his government is committed to talks and how the German apology is to be expressed is under discussion.
Polenz and other delegates were on a three-day visit to Namibia during early July to get first-hand information about the atrocities committed by the German colonial troops against the Namibian people.
Muinjangue said that while progress has been made in negotiations, as claimed by the Namibian and German governments, exclusion of the descendants’ representatives remain, which is of concern.
“Although it has been reported that the German government is willing to acknowledge that the atrocities committed were genocide, the government continues to steadfastly refuse to discuss this matter directly with representatives of the Nama and Herero people or to acknowledge that any final and just settlement must include reparations and compensation to the victims,” she said.
Muinjangue reiterated that the 'government-to-government negotiation' approach constitutes a fundamental violation of the rights of victims, adding that it amounts to nothing else but a gimmick intended to exclude descendants of the victims and to deny them their basic right to self-representation in the negotiations.
“Our plea is directed to the German government from which we expect recognition for the crime of genocide by its predecessor authority, an apology and a commensurate compensation. Since the negotiations are about us, no valid negotiations can be conducted and no just settlement can be reached without us.”
The systematic extermination of more than 100 000 Herero and Nama people by German colonial troops is widely regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century.
The Herero and Nama were driven into the Namibian desert to die of starvation and dehydration, while many of the water holes were intentionally poisoned by the German forces.
Other Namas and Hereros were sent to concentration camps, such as Shark Island near Lüderitz, where they died of disease and abuse.
Many victims were beheaded and their skulls sent to Germany for scientific experiments and anthropological research.
In 2011, some of the skulls were returned to Namibia while some remain in Germany.