Mbumba to preside over ceremony in honour of genocide victims

31 August 2018 Author  
Vice President Nangolo Mbumba is today expected to officiate at a ceremony to honour those killed during the 1904-1908 genocide by the German colonial government
The ceremony will be held at Parliament Gardens in Windhoek after the German government on Wednesday, handed over skulls and other remains of the Herero and Nama indigenous groups that had been stored in hospitals, museums and universities for decades.
The remains, initially removed from the then South-West Africa for race-based, pseudo-scientific experiments, are but one example of Germany's brutal colonial legacy in Namibia.
A conservative estimate of 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people were killed in a 1904-08 campaign after a revolt against brutally violent land seizures by German colonists in what has been called the "first genocide of the 20th century."
'They must apologize'
While Germany has returned part of their macabre collection of human remains on prior occasions to Namibia, the country has grappled with how to deal with official remembrances of the killings, as well as manage the artefacts reflective of the past colonial domination. 
Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Vekuii Rukoro, had strong words for the German government at Wednesday's ceremony in Berlin.
"Genocide, that's what we call it back home. That’s what German opposition MPs are calling it, that's what the German public is calling it and that is what the world is calling it.
“The only people — who after five years of painstaking negotiations — are unable to come to the same conclusion and agreement are the German and the Namibian governments. Something is wrong with our two governments."
Other officials agreed. "We are all united in one thing: We are all demanding that Germany must accept that it committed genocide in our country," said Manase Zeraek, a traditional representative. "We are in agreement that they must apologize and that they must pay reparations."
No 'legal obligation' to pay
Berlin has refused to pay reparations. "The German government considers that the use of the term 'genocide' does not entail any legal obligation to reparations, but rather political and moral obligations to heal the wounds. We're sticking to that position," Ruprecht Polenz, the German negotiator in the Namibia talks, told Deutsche Welle [the German media outlet] two years ago.
Germany argues that hundreds of millions of euros in development aid granted to the Land of the Brave since it gained in independence in 1990, was "for the benefit of all Namibians."
"We must ensure that after we've reached agreements on damages, recognition and an apology, there's a future in which the German and Namibian nations join hands and move forward," Basic Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said in Berlin.
'Colonial heritage'
Michelle Müntefering, a junior minister for international cultural policies in the German Foreign Ministry, said Berlin still has "a lot of catching up in coming to terms with our colonial heritage."
"We want help to heal the wounds from the atrocities committed by Germany at the time," Müntefering said.
Germany and Namibia are currently in talks to determine how to move forward.
Members of both ethnic groups have filed a class action lawsuit in US courts, demanding Germany pay reparations for the massacre. But Berlin is trying to have the case thrown out of court, citing state immunity from prosecution.
"The present generations in Germany did not commit the crimes of genocide against my ancestors, the Herero and Nama, however, the present and future generations of Germany ought to acknowledge the fact that the genocide was committed in the name of Germany," Hanse-Himarwa said.
"The apology for this genocide would make that history our collective history and our collective story."
Hanse-Himarwa said last week that government would create a committee to decide whether to bury or display the repatriated skulls that had been kept in German museums as displays.


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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