Genocide has long tentacles

23 June 2017
The German Government is negotiating on the genocide issue partly for the same reason it has a special relationship with Namibia - there are white people of German ancestry who are Namibians and they want to protect their particular interests. 
With that in mind, we question why Namibia in its negotiating position on the reparations for the 1904-1908 Von Trotha criminal action, does not include people of Namibian ancestry affected by the genocide, who are now citizens of Botswana and South Africa or elsewhere around the world.   
At Independence and subsequently, the German Government took a substantive position on local Namibian issues, such as land redistribution, where whites with Deutsche ancestry may be affected.   These people are not German nationals, they are Namibians, born and raised.  And yet, the German Government looks out for their concerns. 
This is not to say that the Germans care nothing for black Namibians or for peace and democracy in the Land of the Brave, no. We are merely pointing out the specific lure for their policy priorities.
Where is the outreach for the welfare of people with Namibian ancestry displaced by the genocide?  We think Government is far too silent on this point. Genocide has long tentacles and all negotiations to rectify and address its reach need to recognise this. 
Many of those forced out of the land of their birth and obliged to settle in neighbouring countries and rebuild their lives with few resources are treated as second class citizens and foreigners in the land where they have settled.  People tend to have a great affinity for the places where they were born, regardless of where they live now. 
Those who lost land during the genocide and were driven out of what is now Namibia, have not forgotten.  They still live today, affected by the evil that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century.  There is no statute of limitations on genocide.  Therefore, recognition of those who suffered because of that genocide cannot be disregarded.
These concerns must be a part of the agenda at the genocide negotiations. What can be done in their case?  How can their concerns for reparations and apology be included in those presented on behalf of Namibians still living in this country who all suffer from the long term negative impacts of the genocide?
If the Government of Namibia has a caring position on this crucial episode in the history of the country, the needs of all who are affected by what happened should be included in the agenda for any discussions.
These people’s lives and issues cannot be forever left on the outside, staring through the glass as spectators of these vitally important genocide discussions, as if they and their concerns do not exist or do not matter. 
Namibia must be a caring nation.  We cannot stand aside and watch the suffering of others and say that because they are nationals of another country, their problems are not Namibian problems. 
During Namibia’s own struggle against the illegal occupation by South Africa, many nations around the world joined in that fight; they lent tangible and political support and celebrated Namibian independence in March 1990.  They did not turn away and say, “That is Namibia’s problem, not ours”.  They cared; they got involved and they helped the Namibian people win freedom.
If the Namibian Government cannot or will not speak on behalf of its citizens by ancestry who are now living in Botswana and South Africa, then who speaks for them?
Will a tripartite discussion that includes Namibia, Germany and representatives of people displaced by the German genocide be considered as a solution to the problem presented by the need to include these communities?
If, for example, a hospital is built within Namibia in a historical area where Herero and Nama communities lived, how would that be a reparations solution for affected communities living in Botswana and South Africa?
These issues can only be considered if those communities and their particular concerns are a part of the overall genocide negotiations.
There was much talk about reparations for Americans whose ancestors were owned by whites as slaves. In fact, such reparations were promised in writing by the mid-19th century, by the post-Civil War Government but were never delivered.
If recompense for slavery were ever to be considered seriously, how could any reparations be settled without including those descendants of the slaves that escaped into Canada or Mexico in flight from bondage?  Or those who, sponsored by the US Government and various organisations, sailed to Liberia and Sierra Leone to start a life away from violent racism aimed at freedmen?  Would not their claim to reparations for slavery be just as valid as those of a black American still residing in the USA?
The call here is for inclusion.  Genocide’s tentacles must not be ignored.  The agenda for all negotiations must be comprehensive of all communities affected by the genocide perpetrated by the Germans whether they are inside Namibia or not.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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