• Germans says no reparations, plan to apologise
• Namibia wants apology accompanied by reparations
• Diplomatic spat rages on
By Staff Reporter
Negotiations between Namibia and Germany over the notorious 1904-8 genocide have barely started and already the process is compromised. The affected groups feel statements made by Germany’s special envoy Ruprecht Polenz indicating that the outcome of the negotiations will not be in any form of monetary benefits or rewards, but will only be availed in the form of educational and other developmental assistance, have heavily compromised the negotiations because Germany already stated its position. Polenz and two other delegates were on a three-day visit to Namibia to get first-hand information about atrocities committed by the German colonial troops against Ovaherero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908. Dr Zed Ngavirue, the special envoy to lead deliberations with the German Government on the genocide, told this publication this week that he received several calls from concerned members from the affected groups who were seeking more clarity on Polenz’s remarks.
“Yes, I got some complaints, people called me expressing their concerns. I told them our position is that we want an official response, not general statements,” said Ngavirue. Seeing that Namibia has submitted to Germany its list of demands, which it expects to emanate from the negotiations, Ngavirue said he hopes to get a formal response in September when he travels to Germany to meet the German authorities. He said Namibia wants Germany to acknowledge that the killings were an act of genocide and a formal apology accompanied by reparations. “We submitted our document, which constitutes our case, getting a formal response from Berlin is our primary concern. I would not put value on general remarks. I do not know why they [Polenz’ remarks] were made or why it was necessary but to us they are not valid. As far as we are concerned we will still get a formal response and that is what we will put value to,” stressed Ngavirue.
When asked as to how much money Namibia wants the German government to pay in reparations, Ngavirue refused to disclose the amount saying they are subject to negotiations and therefore confidential. Namibia has expressed concern that the German government’s negotiation team on genocide reparations had shared their position and other related information on reparation talks through the media. The concern raised by the Namibian Government specifically relates to the German authority’s statement that no reparations will be paid. Albertus Aochamub, the press secretary in the Office of the President, said in a media statement issued on Tuesday the German counterparts seem to have shared what appears to be their position on negotiations through the media contrary to what was agreed upon between the Namibian and German negotiations teams.
“It is also clear that Germany insists on rushing the negotiations because they face an impending election in their country in the near future and, therefore, it seems that we are held hostage to a deadline before the negotiations have even commenced,” he said.
Aochamub added that such media expositions and statements by the German negotiation team of their ‘pre-conceived positions’ made public before negotiations commence, does not auger well for the future of bilateral relations between Namibia and Germany. “Namibia takes serious exception to this unwelcome approach by the German negotiations team to such delicate discussions on reparations.”
“One does not enter into negotiations with a community and people you have attempted to exterminate by setting conditions which look to guide the end result of the negotiation process,” DTA of Namibia president McHenry Venaani cautioned. He said this in a media statement released last week, just days after the German Ambassador to Namibia Mathias Schlaga, as well as the German Special Envoy for the German- Namibian Dialogue on the Nama and OvaHerero Genocide of 1904-1908 Ruprecht Polenz, both came out in the last week with statements which, according to Venaani, ‘suggests that negotiations are not being done in good faith’. “The affected communities have been calling for this dialogue on reparations to happen since Namibia attained her independence with no response from the German government and yet after waiting for over two decades, it is now the German government who are setting deadlines by when negotiations must be finalized, said Venaani. According to Venaani: “Moreover, without explicitly contesting whether reparations in the form of “developmental aid/projects” is the correct path to go, it is disingenuous to enter negotiations with the stance that the German government will only consider reparations in that form. This is a condition which seeks to pre-empt the end result of the negotiation process and is thus not in good faith.”
Germany plans to formally apologise to Windhoek for the genocide of indigenous Namibians a century ago, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday, but added that the move would not carry any obligation of reparations. “We are working towards a joint government declaration with the following elements: common discussions on the historical events and a German apology for the action in Namibia,” Sawsan Chebli told reporters. The joint declaration with the Namibian government can serve as a basis for a parliamentary resolution, she said, adding, however, that the step would not translate into legal repercussions for Germany. “On the question of whether there could be reparations or legal consequences, there are none. The apology does not come with any consequences on how we deal with the history and portray it,” she said. Berlin ruled what was then called South West Africa as a colony from 1884 to 1915. Incensed by German settlers stealing their land and cattle and taking their women, the Herero people launched a revolt in January 1904, killing 123 German civilians over several days. The Nama tribe joined the uprising in 1905.
The colonial rulers responded ruthlessly and Gen Lothar von Trotha signed a notorious extermination order against the Hereros. Rounded up in prison camps, captured Namas and Hereros died from malnutrition and severe weather. Since 2011, Germany has formally handed back dozens of the skulls. But Berlin has repeatedly refused to pay reparations, saying its hundreds of millions of euros in development aid since Namibia’s independence from SA in 1990 was “for the benefit of all Namibians”.
– Additional reporting by Nampa and The Telegraph