Rifts widen over genocide reparations lawsuit

Rifts between the descendants of the victims of the 1904-08 German-sanctioned genocide continue to widen after sections of the OvaHerero, OvaMbanderu and Nama people this week distanced themselves from a recent federal class action lawsuit filed in an American court.
The lawsuit, filed by OvaHerero Chief, Vekuii Rukoro and Chairperson of the Nama Traditional Authorities Association, David Frederick, “on behalf of all Herero and Nama worldwide”, seeks to force Berlin to pay reparations and compensation for the genocide against the OvaHerero and Nama communities.
Rukoro and Frederick, through their legal representatives, also told a New York court that they should be included in the ongoing negotiations between the German and Namibian governments over this matter.
The two claim in court documents that they are acting on behalf of all the descendants of the Herero and Nama in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, US and in other places, an assertion that the OvaHerero, OvaMbanderu and Nama Council for the Dialogue on the 1904 Genocide (ONCD 1904) is now strongly disputing.
The council, through its chairperson, Gerson Katjirua, stated in no uncertain terms on Thursday that they were never consulted by Rukoro and Frederick to act on their behalf and therefore they are “not party to this class action”.
In a statement read on his behalf during a media briefing in Windhoek, Katjirua noted that the council “Interestingly, observed that the definition of ‘class’ was only limited to the OvaHerero and Nama communities”.
He said the OvaMbanderu people, who also lost land and property, were omitted and that their leaders were referred to as part of the OvaHerero leaders.
Katjirua reiterated the council’s pledge to work with the Namibian Government’s negotiating team in the ongoing bilateral talks with Germany.

“The [council] has made tremendous contributions towards the shaping of the process and content of the bilateral dialogue,” Katjirua said.
Responding to the alleged omission of the Ovambanderu in the class action lawsuit, Festus Muundjua, who is the patron of the OvaHerero Genocide Foundation (OGF), however, denied that the Ovambaderu had been sidelined in the pursuit of reparations.
“Rukoro never divided the OvaHerero and OvaMbanderu, but treats them as one people, tribe and ethnic group,” Muundjua said.
“The case at court does not differentiate between the OvaMbanderu and OvaHerero communities.”