Genocide remembrance day talk evokes mixed feelings

08 May 2017 19:00pm
KEETMANSHOOP, 08 MAY (NAMPA) – Members of the //Kharas community were Monday divided over the proposed date of 28 May as the “National Genocide Remembrance Day” at a meeting in Keetmanshoop.
Swanu of Namibia President Usutuaije Maamberua in April last year tabled a motion in the National Assembly to discuss, determine and declare the said date as the day to observe the genocide.
The date, 28 May 1908, is said to mark the release of Herero and Nama victims who survived the war against the German colonial forces from 1904 to 1908, during which many were held in concentration camps.
The motion was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitution and Legal Affairs, which embarked on its first meeting on the matter in the southern capital.
Some members of the Nama community present expressed agreement with the proposed date, while others requested a deferment for further consultation.
Those who did not want to settle on the date said remembrance of the genocide could not take place separate from the discussion and conclusion of reparations.
Deputy Captain of the /Hai-/Khaua clan of Berseba, Stephanus Goliath said it is simple to decide on the date but painful to discuss the genocide.
“Our people lost their lives and their resources, and today still languish in poverty. When the issue of genocide, land or reparations come up in Parliament, fights erupt. Why?” he asked.
Goliath said Government over the years chose certain moments in the country’s history to recognise, while the resources lost during the genocide continue to be in the hands of those who appropriated it.
“The bottom line is that we want our land back. The pain will come back when the day is commemorated, but the question will remain: What am I celebrating?” he said.
Chief David Frederick of the !Aman of Bethanie said the date and its meaning should be deliberated on by the two affected tribes and alongside the developments of a lawsuit lodged against the German government.
The chief is a plaintiff in the matter filed in a United States of America court seeking reparations from Germany and demanding the inclusion of the affected communities in official talks between the Namibian and German governments.
He noted the proposed day might over time lose significance, as it will be held in a month awash with public holidays including Cassinga and Workers’ Day.
Simon Isaak, a second-generation descendant of Chief Cornelius Frederick who died as a prisoner in the Shark Island concentration camp, also said the discussion of the date should be postponed.
“This is a painful and sensitive issue that elicits brutal images of babies torn from the breasts of their mothers and skulls put on display. There should be sensitivity and a chance for affected families to sit together and clear their minds first,” he said.
Chairperson of the standing committee Sebastian Karupu, Vice-Chairperson Emilia Nuyoma-Amupewa and member Vipuakuje Muharukua said the purpose of the proposed day is to unite all Namibians in remembrance of the atrocity.
They said the day should be mourned by all Namibians and that is why consultations will be held all over the country.
Committee member, Bernadus Swartbooi said the genocide is an important issue, in which over 100 000 people died and lost their land.
The first consultation in Keetmanshoop is expected to be followed by others in Mariental, Gobabis, Outapi, Oshakati, Omuthiya, Eenhana, Nkurenkuru, Rundu, Katima Mulilo and Windhoek.