Germany's apology over Namibia genocide is not enough

2021-06-01 18:32:46
Germany's apology over Namibia genocide is not enough

Germany's recent apology for its colonial-era killings of tens of thousands of people in the Southern African nation of Namibia, is not enough, and was stage craft at its best, argues Namibian analyst Emsie Erastus.

The long-awaited apology for last century's genocide was a carefully compiled statement seemingly to avoid any legal culpability. It came as the largest faction within the Ovaherero community continue to pursue attempts to sue Berlin for the genocide.

Last week, at the completion of negotiations with Namibia, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made the announcement that the slaughter his country carried out in its former colony was a genocide.

There was also the promise of development aid worth more than €1.1bn (£940m; $1.34bn).

German colonisers killed tens of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama people in Namibia between 1904 and 1908. This amounted to some 80% of the Herero and over 40% of the Nama. Their land and livestock were also confiscated.

This was punishment for taking part in an uprising.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

apologized on Friday for its role in the slaughter and said Berlin has agreed

to fund projects worth over a billion euros in its former colony.

"In light of Germany's historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness," Maas said.

But Herero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro dismissed a deal agreed by the two governments as "an insult" because it did not include payment of reparations.

The message was intended for a sceptical German audience that, according to multiple studies, has little remembrance of the killings or of the country's past as a powerful colonial force with dominion over modern-day Togo, Namibia, Burundi, and Tanzania.

'Hollow declaration'

In terms of fully acknowledging its colonial past in Namibia, Germany has always been reluctant to do so. This is despite providing development support to successive administrations since Namibia's independence in 1990.

A half-hearted apology delivered by a German development minister in 2004, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide, was roundly criticised.

The clamour from the devastated communities for an unequivocal acknowledgement of the genocide, an apology, and compensation became louder. As a result, the two governments had no choice but to address the elephant in the room.

The negotiations may have resulted in the recognition of the genocide, but the declaration is hollow.

To begin with, the statement was made in haste for domestic and other political reasons. As a result, everyone, including the Namibian government, was caught off guard.

When the news of the statement made its way around the world, local chiefs representing the affected communities in Namibia were still being consulted on the conclusion of the recent round of discussions.

Some local pundits have speculated that the time was chosen to seize the spotlight following the French President Emmanuel Macron's apology to Rwanda for its role in that country's genocide in 1994.

Second, the settlement has been widely rebuked for failing to achieve the principle reparations demand.

The money Germany will give, which is much smaller than some had hoped, is very specifically meant for reconstruction and development projects.


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