An Emotional Return To Hornkranz

11 Mar 2019 11:50am

By Edward Mumbuu Jnr
HORNKRANZ, 10 MAR (NAMPA) - Hornkranz, a war zone about 126 years ago, evokes a mixture of emotions - pain for the lives lost at the hands of German intruders and joy that this was one of the battlegrounds which birthed Namibia’s struggle for liberation from colonial occupation.
These, and other emotions, characterised a recent visit to the area by a delegation spearheaded by Parliamentarian and chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee, Ida Hoffmann, accompanied by Baden Württemberg’s Minister of Science, Research and Arts, Theresia Bauer, to the area.
The overarching objective of this, and many visits still to come, is to mend a history of past injustices through acknowledgement, forgiveness, restorative justice, true reconciliation and reparation from the German government, while also building a common future between former foes.
Hornkranz is situated some 120 kilometres southwest of Windhoek. Legendary Nama chief, Kaptein Hendrik !Nanseb Witbooi settled in these open plains with about 300 people from his clan in the late 1880s.
The area is now dotted with graves, those of the perpetrators and victims, some acknowledged and some marked with just a heap of rocks.
In 1884, Germany declared the territory from what is now the Kunene Region to the Orange River as 'German South West Africa', meaning the country would become its colony.
Germany sought protection treaties with the leaders of indigenous groups, including Witbooi, documented evidence shows. A defiant Witbooi however refused to sign such a treaty.
German army major and later South West Africa Governor, Curt von Francois launched a surprise attack on Hornkranz on 12 April 1893 with about 200 armed soldiers.
Eighty of Witbooi’s people were killed, many of them women and children. The ‘kaptein’ and most of the men survived the attack and escaped.
About 100 prisoners were taken, among them Witbooi’s wife and daughter.
These were the sad memories that came to mind when the delegation visited the area, just a day after the return of Witbooi’s bible and whip from Germany, when a ceremony in honour of the artefacts’ return had been held in Gibeon, Witbooi’s /Khowese clan’s later home.
The delegation saw that unlike the Germans buried on the farm, the Nama victims’ graves are unmarked and covered only with rocks.
Going forward, but without forgetting past injustices, Hoffmann said it was only fitting that the two governments combine resources to build a monument and erect graves in honour of those who perished during the attack on Hornkranz.
This, she said, would restore their dignity.
“The graves of the Germans at least have signs, while these ones, you just think it’s bones and so on… But I am happy that there are Germans in our midst, who equally feel disheartened and show sympathy towards us,” Hoffmann said.
The visit forms part of a series of familiarisation tours for the German officials on the impact of atrocities that Germany meted on Namibian communities, particularly the Nama and Ovaherero.
“It is their responsibility to go back and inform their government about these graves that their ancestors are responsible for (and) take immediate action to improve these graves,” Hoffmann stated.
She was further dissatisfied with the fact that remains of Namibians are still being kept in German museums and universities.
“Bring back all the skulls, remains, papers, whatever is there. You cannot talk about reparations while the bodies of our people are still in the mortuary,” Hoffmann said.
She explained: “For us, these remains that are in your museums and universities, for us they are still in the mortuary. And traditionally, in our case, it is not allowed to talk about reparation (estate) of the dead while they have not been buried.”
Sympathising with the Namibians, an emotional Bauer said a Namibian way should be sought to honour the victims.
Bauer then vowed to do everything in her power to ensure that all Namibian human remains, artefacts and other belongings are returned to their country of origin.
“I promise that the next step for me will be for Baden Württemberg with our own museums, universities and archives to receive a letter with the obligation to investigate actively and to guarantee us that there are no Namibian skulls left (in Germany). And if they find something, they have to give it to us and we will send them as soon as possible to you,” she said.
Hornkranz is currently a privately-owned farm, and is occupied by the Cloete family.
“It is an honour for us to share this historic place with other Namibians,” Riva Cloete, who administers the drought-hit livestock farm, told the agency.
Bauer earlier said it was time for Germans, particularly her generation, to confront their dark colonial past.
Today, the Namibian and German governments are engaged in diplomatic talks as they seek to put the past behind them.
Through the talks, the Namibian government seeks to achieve three key things - acknowledgement of genocide by the Germans, a genuine apology for the atrocities it committed and reparation.
Reports have indicated that the Namibian government intends to slap the German Government with a N.dollars 510 billion reparation bill for damages, deaths, livelihood and land losses that resulted from the 1904-08 genocide.
“If the German government thinks something terribly wrong has happened then they ought to, as you have done, publicly apologise. (It should be an) apology that we must also accept as it is truly an apology. When you have admitted that something very bad has happened and you are sorry for it, then you must do something to heal the wounds,” were the words of President Hage Geingob at the historic Gibeon event.
Over 100 000 Ovaherero and Nama were killed from 1904 to 1908 as a result of a mass extermination policy initiated by German colonial troops under the stewardship of general Lothar von Trotha.