Ovaherero Traditional Authority Paramount Chief, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, says he is confident of victory in the class-action suit launched by the Herero and Nama people last year over the tens of thousands indigenous people killed in the 1904-1908 massacres.
Rukoro made this declaration at a media briefing on Thursday in Windhoek as he shared details about his recent trip to New York where the German Government had asked a US court to throw out the lawsuit seeking reparations for the genocide of the Herero and Nama people under German colonial rule.
The Herero and Nama communities are suing Germany using a 1789 US law - the Alien Tort Statute – which is usually invoked in human rights cases.
In terms of this law, US district courts have jurisdiction over any civil action brought by an alien (foreigners) for a tort only, committed in violation of international treaties binding on the United States.
“After they (Germany) rejected and frustrated our efforts to negotiate a settlement, we had to drag them to court,” Rukoro said.
“The negative impact of their genocide has a direct impact on my children and my children’s children. We lost land, our cattle were taken without compensation, and many of our people lost their lives. So we don’t expect to lose this case.”
The German Government asked the US court to throw out the case brought by the Namibian indigenous groups.
US District Judge Laura Taylor Swain agreed to consider Germany’s request, but set no date for ruling on it. The next hearing in the case has been set for 3 May.
This is the first time that Berlin has formally responded to the class-action suit launched by the Herero and Nama people in September last year.
Berlin’s position is “that the complaint is in admissable because of the principle of state immunity”, according to a report by Mail Online.
In support of the legal case pending in the US courts, former Land Reform Deputy Minister, Bernadus Swartbooi, and other activists travelled to Germany to engage with people and communities to create awareness of what happened between 1904 and 1908.
This was announced at the media briefing by the Chairperson of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation (OGF), Utjiua Muinjangue.
“While the Paramount Chief was in the States, former deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi and others, including me, went to Berlin to engage the people there and advocate on this issue.
“This genocide matter seems so easy on some people who are not victims, but for some of us it is still something that gets us very emotional when one thinks about it,” Muinjangue said.
Festus Muundjua from the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation explained how there is no limitation on seeking reparations for genocide and demanding payment for damages that result.
“Quite correctly, they (Germans) have not stopped paying reparations to the Jewish people and other countries where their genocide caused death and destruction. This is what they agreed in 1952. So there is no time limitation on seeking recompense for the damages caused by genocide,” Muundjua said.