Genocide closure needed

19 January 2018
The demand by the Ovaherero and Nama people for restitution over the atrocities committed by German colonial forces in the then South-West Africa is nothing new,
as many countries have been forced to pay for crimes committed in the past.
Thousands died in January 1904 after the Ovaherero, incensed by the settlers stealing their land and cattle and taking their women, revolted ‑ killing 123 German civilians over several days.
The same Germans agreed to compensate Jews, who also suffered the same fate at the hands of the imperialists. The Germans have since apologised and paid billions in compensation.
According to the New York Times, Germany has paid over US$89 billion in compensation mostly to Jewish victims of Nazi crimes over six decades, as part of a post-war reparations programme and still meets regularly to revise and expand the guidelines for qualification with the aim to reach as many of the tens of thousands of elderly survivors who had never received any form of support as possible.
According to the BBC, the German finance ministry in 2013 agreed to make one-off payments worth 2,556 euros (£2,188) to each Jewish victim of the Holocaust, who had still not received any compensation plus a US$382 monthly pension.
The question is why are there double standards when it comes to Namibia after the same country acknowledged that a wrong was done? Why is German dragging its feet when it comes to offering an official apology to the Namibian victims and their surviving families?
Why is the same country trying to negotiate its way-out of apologising and paying what is due to surviving members of these tribes that were decimated in one of the most brutal events of the 20th century?
Captured Nama and Ovaherero died from malnutrition and severe weather, with dozens beheaded and their skulls sent to German researchers in Berlin for “scientific” experiments.
It really baffles the mind as to why the Germans seem to be determined not to own up to their wrongdoings and negotiate in good faith, allowing this sad chapter in the history of this country to close and those that have been directly affected to heal.
It is only in Namibia where the offender determines the terms and pace of negotiations.
Continuous delaying techniques will not wish this issue away, but further harden the stance of those demanding their dues, while bringing increased attention to the issue.
It has been years since calls for compensation were mooted and Namas and Ovaherero remain determined to get what is due to them, no matter how long it is going to take. However, the same cannot be said of the impact of the issue on the image of Germany as a country.
It would be folly for the Germans to think that they can use the billions in aid paid to Namibia over the years to make up for their wrongs, lest we forget that the same aid is not being channelled directly to the affected victims or their families.
It should also be noted that the so-called “development aid”, which has been made available to the country, comes with stringent conditions, a position which Economic Planning Minister, Tom Alweendo, has also lamented in the past.
One of the conditions has always been the appointment of Germans to manage the various projects, creating employment for their nationals and paying them from the same aid funds, at the expense of Namibian nationals who are relegated to watch from the sidelines when the decisions and approvals are made in Berlin.


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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