President Hage Geingob has angered Ovaherero and Nama leaders due to utterances he made regarding claims for genocide and ancestral land at Omuthiya during a town hall meeting on Monday.
The President reportedly accused political leaders of instigating their followers to lay claims to ancestral land and genocide for “selfish” reasons, “while the real victims suffer in silence.”
He did not elaborate on what he meant by “selfish reasons” or who the “real victims” were.
The leaders fumed that Geingob’s statements were misplaced and bordered on tribal/regional instigation as he used the audience in the north as a platform to discuss issues that affected the majority of communities of Ovaherero and Nama who live in the east and south of Namibia.
“Why did he not raise these issues during his visit to the south where the majority of the ‘victim communities’ reside? One wonders if the President chose an audience that can’t even begin to understand the impact of genocide because they never experienced it for political opportunism and to sensationalize his election campaign,” said Sima Luiperd, the Deputy-Chairperson of the Nama Genocide Committee.
Luiperd said that while the President spent N$48 million on British lawyers through the Minister of Justice, Sacky Shangala, who was the then Attorney General, to understand the Nama and Herero genocide and another N$15 million to help him define ancestral land “he says instigators do not know their history”.
An incensed Luiperd took a swipe at Geingob for reportedly warning the audience at Omuthiya that civil war could erupt if people allow themselves to be used when they know nothing about the issues they are letting themselves into.
She said that the President’s manipulative reference to civil war will not derail the descendants of genocide from seeking justice through established national and international instruments of justice.
“The descendants are calling for justice whereas he has joined Germany to stand as an obstacle to justice. Does the fact that the descendants call him to order and remind him of his mandate, make him feel like a ‘suffering victim’?” asked Luiperd.
Chief Simon Kooper of the Kai-||Khaun Nama clan and Chairman of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association was also dismayed at the President’s comments and questioned whether there was any validity to the Ancestral Land Commission of Inquiry (ALC) that Geingob set up.
The ALC was established earlier this year to survey communities who have lost ancestral land, establish ancestral land lost and boundaries, attempt to generate common consensus on definition of ancestral land, determine limit of pre-independence ancestral claims, and other duties.
Kooper said that traditional leaders rejected any statement claiming that they were politicising the issues of genocide and ancestral land claims.
“The truth remains. We cannot be silenced by politicians,” he said, adding he suspected this to be a ploy by the Head of State to garner votes [in Omuthiya] for the upcoming national elections.
Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero, Adv. Vekuii Rukoro equally bemoaned Geingob’s statements at Omuthiya, saying that the President is “barking up the wrong tree”.
“Since when is it wrong and a violation of the constitution to demand reparations from Germany which has perpetrated criminal acts and are continuing to do so against descendants of the genocide of 1904-1908?” asked Rukoro.
The Ovaherero Paramount Chief emphasised that the case was against the German government and not against the Namibian government.
“We are not instigating anybody against our government. We are instigating our people against the German government,” he explained.
He remarked that while the audience in Omuthiya was questioning Geingob about corruption, he deflected the discussion to genocide and ancestral land, while he had visited Omaheke and Erongo regions where he could have addressed such issues, but never mentioned it.
Dr Mutjinde Katjiua, Secretary-General of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority said that the President is assuming that since he is ignorant about genocide and ancestral land issues, “we too have similarly no knowledge about these matters”.
“He is utterly mistaken on both counts,” he pointed out, saying that “we have full knowledge of these matters from a young age.”
Land in Namibia was confiscated through successive colonial regimes, first through German occupation from 1884 until the colonial regime’s defeat in WWI and the subsequent South African colonial rule effectively from 1915 to 1990.