Outgoing German Ambassador to Namibia, Christian-Matthias Schlaga, has ruled out financial reparations to the descendants of Herero and Nama people who were killed between 1904 and 1908.
Schlaga told the Windhoek Observer this week during an exclusive interview that Germany will not reconsider its position regarding offering financial compensation to Namibia, as any financial claim can only be made by those directly affected and not descendants as is the case in Namibia.
“This has never been the case and we have excluded this from the beginning of our negotiations, this is not the way to deal with this,” Schlaga said.
“Reparation in this context is done to people who are still direct survivors, and we do not have direct survivors in Namibia anymore. We have descendants.”
He said Germany is ready to talk about “fresh money” in order to support development in specific areas where the descendants of the previously affected communities are still living today.
“This is the target and once we have come to a conclusion then we will talk about where we will commit and where we will be able to contribute to the improvements of the living conditions. So it’s still to come.”
According to AFP, government was ready to launch a N$400 billion lawsuit in 2017 against Germany over genocide committed during colonial rule, when tens of thousands of people were killed.
Schlaga’s statement will come as a blow to Herero and Nama leaders who have been calling for financial reparations over the years.
It also comes as Ovaherero and Nama leaders have appealed a ruling by U.S. District Judge, Laura Taylor Swain, who said in March that the Western European country was immune from any claims by descendants of the Herero and Nama tribes, depriving her of jurisdiction over its role in what some historians have called the 20th century’s first genocide.
Schlaga also maintained during the interview that although negotiations with the Namibian government are still ongoing, only a political solution was possible.
He said there remain some sticking points particularly regarding some terminologies, which the country was not willing to forego.
“In particular the term genocide. We have made it very clear from the beginning that Germany does not accept a framing of the term on a legal basis; we do not see the way we will deal with history which is 120 years old in a legal context.
“We have always made it clear that historic events that date back 120 years or even before world war one, cannot be dealt with on legal basis. We offered and we still believe that the best way to deal with this issue is a political, moral and historic approach and this is what we have been doing for three and half years,” he said.
“I think we have found a lot of understanding on this issue, therefore we talked and defined how the term genocide will be used and you will see that Germany is ready to say the events of 1904-1908 represent what is called genocide, but not in a legal context.”
Thousands of Herero and Namas were slaughtered, left to starve or died at concentration camps from 1904 to 1908, when Namibia was still known as South-West Africa, after the tribes rebelled against German rule.
Asked if the German government was working with a timeline to conclude the negotiations, Schlaga said no timelines had been set.
“No, no we do not have a timeline, we never had one and we still do not have one, the substance of the issue is what governs our behaviour,” he said.
Quizzed if he has any regrets on not concluding the talks during his time as German Ambassador to Namibia, he said, “Well of course I think I did enough, we worked hard on this issue and we came very far as I expressed on so many different occasions and we are not done yet.”
He said some crucial issues still remain to be solved, but he was confident that his successor and the other people involved will be able to find a solution as soon as possible.
“As I have mentioned or explained on various occasions, I am not so surprised that it takes so much time because it is a very complex and sensitive issue therefore we need more time, and we cannot push it.”