With Namibia’s negotiating team for the Nama/Ovaherero Genocide set to depart to Germany next month to engage their German counterparts, victims of the genocide who feel excluded say the scheduled negotiations do not have their blessings and that any outcome will not be accepted.
Advisor to the chief of the Kambazembi Traditional Authority, Alpha Kangueehi, told Government that the negotiations will not be accepted by the affected groups because of a lack of consultation. He also warned that the affected communities are slowly but surely becoming fed up with the lack of available land despite government spending millions to buy resettlement farms. “Government say they want to buy as much land as possible, but unless the land bought is earmarked for the groups that lost their land, lives and livestock during the genocide, it will serve no purpose,” he said.
Kangueehi said resettlement farms should be reserved exclusively for the descendants of those who died during the war. “Currently even those who never lost land are also benefitting while we are being pushed further into the desert like in the past. People are losing patience and they are not happy. We do not care about town land, all we want is our ancestral communal land,” he said. He further said Government was merely supposed to play a facilitator’s role instead of taking over the negotiations with the German government.
“Government does not know what we want therefore it cannot negotiate on our behalf. We expected government to be a referee in all this and provide advisory support to us but it seems we were wrong about that.” He said: “It cannot be right that even those who never lost land are benefitting. Even if the German government says it pumped billions into Namibia over the years, that has nothing to do with us because it was not an arrangement between the affected groups and the Germans,” he lamented.
Kangueehi is adamant that the Namibian government is the third party in the negotiations. “The Germans said they do not want to negotiate with third parties, yet our government is the third party in all this because it was never part of the negotiations and by that time it was not even formed,” he charged. He hinted that the frustrations of the affected groups might see them taking the law into their own hands and forcefully take land from white people.
“I do not want to preempt things nor do I want to cause panic, but if the Germans’ stance that there will be no reparations remains, then they are forcing our people to take matters in their own hands. But as peace loving Namibians we do not wish to make this country ungovernable…therefore the Germans must listen to us because we have been talking for over 100 years, we are not ready to wait any longer,” he warned. Kangueehi said the calls for land repossession and reparations should not be made to seem like the affected groups are disregarding the country’s reconciliation policy. “Reconciliation should not mean that the affected groups must make peace with their loss because they have nowhere else to go. People are forced to live in the corridors while there is land, we need to have breathing space unlike now where people are cramped onto small tracts of land. White people do not even want to give our people water.”
He bemoaned the fact that the livestock and human population continues to grow while the communal area size remains the same.
“The Government continues to drag its feet on the issue of land which is not good. We are not saying we do not want to live with our brothers and sisters from other parts of the country, but we also want a dignified life. It is not fair that some people have farms which they use as guest farms and holiday homes while thousands of our people have to scramble for land,” he said.
“We thought the liberation struggle was a fight to regain our land but 26 years after Independence we still do not have land and white people continue to occupy our ancestral land. The land issue could have been handled better if white farmers were not allowed to dictate farm prices, Government should have taken up that mandate,” he said. Negotiations between Namibia and Germany over the notorious 1904-08 genocide have barely started and already the process is compromised.
The affected groups feel statements made by Germany’s special envoy Ruprecht Polenz during a recent visit to Namibia 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.
The German government has also made it clear-much to the dismay of affected groups-that negotiations will be limited to Government levels.