Progress made on Germany’s reparation to Namibia over the ‘forgotten genocide’
The long underlying issue involving the ‘Forgotten Genocide’ is finally getting the attention it deserves as Germany and Namibia are in talks in attempting to fix the damage caused by the colonial-era genocide between 1904-1908.
The German government has established that more than a billion dollars in development aid for Namibia in a statement that recognized the genocidal killings carried out by colonial settlers against indigenous people.
Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said his country bore historical and moral responsibility for the atrocities they committed to Namibians.
Foreign Minister Maas also assured that Germany would ask forgiveness from Namibia and the victims’ descendants.
Between the years 1904-1908, German colonial forces murdered over 70% of the Nama and Herero people’s entire population when they rebelled back against their lands and cattle being stolen. This event is what historians now call “the forgotten genocide”.
The people left from the Herero and Nama were forced into the desert and any who were found trying to return to their land were either killed or put into concentration camps, to join in forced labor.
There is no agreed figure of how many died during the purge. However, some estimate that the death toll on both the Nama and Herero people was as high as 100,000.
Never before has a former colonial power sat down with a former colony in this way to work out an all-inclusive agreement about the legacy of the past.
Germany has said it will make a formal apology – though the wording is still to be worked out. But the bigger question for Namibians is what form any material compensation will take.
In 2015, the two countries started negotiating an agreement that would combine an official apology with financial support to the descendants of the people who were affected by the German’s actions.
Germany’s acknowledgment that it committed genocide during its colonial-era occupation of Namibia was a “step in the right direction”, the AFP news agency reports quoting President Hage Geingob’s spokesman.
Germany gave an official public apology recently. This is a result of five years of negotiations between the two countries.
Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said his country bore historical and moral responsibility for the atrocities.
He said Germany would ask forgiveness from Namibia and the victims’ descendants.
The Namibian party hopes for a massive financial deal that will help restore its people to the prosperity they once had before the genocide.
Today, most of the people left of Herero and Nama live either on small overcrowded areas of communal land that were later allocated to them or in towns – many in the “informal settlements” or shantytowns that house 40% of Namibia’s people.
In Swakopmund, there’s a massive social gulf between the pretty, colonial-era town center with its pastel-painted gabled buildings. These buildings are still homes to grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original colonists.
While poor houses and shacks cobbled together from planks and metal sheeting that extend for miles to the north are homes to the Herero and Nama people, who originally owned the land.
These poor communities still have serious difficulties accessing social amenities and necessary facilities. They do not have flushing toilets, drinkable water, or electricity supply.
The hope is that the German government will fund a land reform program to enable farms to be bought from German Namibian farmers, and distributed to Herero and Nama.
Progress made on Germany’s Reparation to Namibia over the ‘Forgotten Genocide’
How realistic is this? Namibia’s chief negotiator, Dr. Zed Ngavirue, says Germany has “acknowledged the need to do something to help us reconstruct our society” and agreed to provide some money – as part of a wider agreement – to buy up land from willing sellers.
But he adds: “I couldn’t try and fool myself that the land issue will be solved by Germany. It’s not loss of land as a result of German colonization only.”
German-Namibian academic and activist Henning Melber, who has studied the background to the talks, believes other former colonial powers in Europe have privately expressed concerns to Germany that an agreement with Namibia might set off an avalanche of claims against various colonizers by nations in Africa, south-east Asia and elsewhere.
While this may be true, it is still of utmost importance that the descendants of the two tribes get a form of reparation from Germany’s government as they are still facing the adverse effect of the horrible actions of the German Colonialists.
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