The German government will pay up to $1.3 billion in aid to Namibia over an undisclosed period of time in a bid to formally acknowledge the European country’s role in what has been described as a genocide against the natives of the territory now known as Namibia.
In January 1904, members of the Herero ethnic group revolted against the invading Germans who had, as part of the scramble for African lands, secured territories in central, western and eastern Africa. The pushback against the Germans culminated in what has come to be known as the Battle of Waterberg. However, the Germans won and drove the Herero to the Namib desert where most of them died of starvation and dehydration.
In October of the same year, another group, the Namaqua, rose against the Germans but were beaten by the colonizers. The Namaqua people suffered a similar fate as the Herero.
In 2004, the 100th anniversary of the massacre, Germany acknowledged its transgressions but refused to pay compensations. The last 17 years, however, have seen tremendous progress in Namibia’s bid to have the Germans do more in acknowledgment of what took the lives of tens of thousands of African people. In 2015, Germany agreed to call what happened a genocide and began to plan towards compensation.
Certain historical artifacts, including the 15th century Portuguese-erected Stone Cross of Cape Cross which was shipped to Germany for the purposes of imperial propaganda, were also returned to Namibia.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced the deal in a statement recently and said his country was committed to finding “genuine reconciliation in memory of the victims”.
“This includes naming the events of the German colonial period in what is now Namibia, and in particular the atrocities in the period from 1904 to 1908, without sparing or glossing over them. We will now also officially call these events what they were from today’s perspective: a genocide,” Maas added.
Namibia rejected an offer of compensation in 2020 with President Hage Geingob describing it as “not acceptable”. The two countries had agreed on a “political settlement” and Germany had refused to call its payments “reparations”. This new offer does not seem to contain the word too even if that is what most observers have called it.
The Namibian government has indicated that it is pleased with what the Germans are offering with presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari telling CNN on Friday that his government sees the offer as part of “very positive developments in light of a very long process that has been accelerated over the past five years”.
Even though the presidency may be fine with the offer, certain locals, importantly the Paramount Chief of the Herero people, Vekuli Rukoro, have refused to bless the deal. For Rukoro, it is because his people were not included in the government’s negotiations with Germany.
“This is just [a] public relations. This is a sellout job by the Namibian government. The government has betrayed the cause of my people,” Rukoro, who is also a former attorney general, said in response to the announcement.
Although he is not against monetary settlements, Rukoro believes an involvement of local ethnic authorities would see to it that monies would be distributed directly to the living families of those who were affected by the massacre some 117 years ago.