‘Not acceptable’ – Namibia rejects German genocide reparations offer

Mohammed Awal August 12, 2020
Photo credit: Namibian presidency

Namibia has turned down Germany’s offer for reparations for mass killings in its then colony. The 1904 to 1908 genocide in the Southern African country resulted in the deaths of more than 60 000 Herero and over 10 000 Nama people.

President Hage Geingob said the offer for reparations made by Germany was “not acceptable”. “The current offer for reparations made by the German Government remains an outstanding issue and is not acceptable to the Namibian Government,” Geingob said in a statement Tuesday.

Geingob’s rejection of the offer followed his receipt of a status update from the Special Envoy on the Negotiations on Genocide, Apology and Reparations (GAR) between Namibia and Germany.

It has been five years since the appointment of Special Envoys by the Governments of Namibia and Germany, including the commencement of negotiations. Eight negotiations had taken place since then, alternating between Berlin, Germany, and Namibia. 

Also, 15 more meetings of the Special Political Cabinet Committee (SPCC) on Genocide, Apology, and Reparations Chaired by the Vice President have taken place.

After the last round, the 8th meeting between the Special Envoys, the Namibian and German negotiating teams agreed on a draft declaration, stressing a narrative of Genocidal events committed by German Imperial Troops in Namibia, and which took place between 1904-1908. 

“In that vein, the German Government citing political and moral responsibility has agreed to render an unconditional apology to the Namibian Government, her people and in particular the affected communities,” the statement said.

“Although Genocide is a punishable crime according to the United Nations Convention on Genocide, signed on 9 December 1948 and effective on 12 January 1951, the German and Namibian Government have agreed on a political settlement,” it added. 

However, while the Namibian Government agreed to negotiate the issue of reparations, which the German Government consistently referred to as “healing the wounds”, Germany has declined to accept the term “reparations”.

Last year, the New York federal court dismissed a lawsuit by the two indigenous Namibian tribes who were demanding compensation from Germany for the genocide of their ancestors over a century ago.

U.S. District Judge, Laura Taylor Swain, in Manhattan, said Germany was immune from claims by descendants of the Herero and Nama tribes, depriving her of jurisdiction over its role in what some have called the 20th century’s first genocide.

In January 1904, members of the Herero tribe revolted against the invading Germans, which led to the “Battle of Waterberg.” However, 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, members of the Namaqua tribe rose against the Germans but were soon overpowered by the well-armed German troops. They suffered the same fate as the Herero.

Thousands of native Namibians were also imprisoned, where most of them died of abuse and/or exhaustion.

There were also reports of concentration camps where the colonialists carried out exterminations and scientific experiments on the tribes’ people.

In the “Whitaker Report” of 1985, the United Nations recognized the two Namibian massacres as “an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Namaqua people.”

In 2004, Germany acknowledged the killings but rejected calls for financial compensation for the victims and their descendants. In 2015, the German government declared the events as a “genocide” and “part of a race war.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 12, 2020


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