Sunday 18 April 2021
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Genocide legal bill ‘stinks’-Rukoro

Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro says the “astronomical bill” paid to British-based lawyers cannot be justified and that it calls for a full probe from both the Namibian Police and Scotland Yard.
Scotland Yard is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the territorial police force responsible for policing most of London.
Rukoro wants both law enforcement agencies to launch a full-scale investigation to determine money trail.
Namibia reportedly paid over N$40 million to British-based lawyers who rendered legal services and provided advice to government on how to tackle the genocide issue.
Speaking to this publication at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on Tuesday before jetting off to the United States of America to attend the federal class action lawsuit filed in the United States (US) Federal Court in New York, Rukoro said the fees do not correlate with the work done.
The two primary plaintiffs are Rukoro and Chairperson of the Nama Traditional Authorities Association, David Frederick, who are representing those indigenous people in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, US and elsewhere. The court case commenced yesterday.
“The bill cannot be justified, especially considering the fact that it was for legal research and to render legal opinion. Even if all lawyers who worked on it did so for a year, the bill would maybe come to N$1 million and if it a bit crazy it could be N$2 million. The N$40 million bill calls for serious probe, and on behalf of those who must benefit I say it must be probed.
If the ACC director does not want to probe it, then place him on administrative leave so that someone can be given free rein to launch a full probe that includes Scotland Yard because this deal stinks.
The names of genocide victims are used as if it is for the benefit of the descendants but it is not the case,” Rukoro charged.
He added: “We as the descendants of those who died, in whose name this so called legal advice has been sought are unhappy and disturbed that taxpayers money has been used in a non-transparent manner and more so by the fact that all calls for transparency and accountability are being evaded.”
Rukoro, who himself is a former attorney general, said “the fact that the most junior legal person received the lion’s share of the money raises serious eyebrows and questions.”
According to the descendants of the affected groups, the genocide committed against Namibians between 1904-08 were intentional and premeditated actions of the sovereign State of Germany carried out as collective punishment against the affected groups in violation of then applicable customary international law principles.
According to reports, Government is seeking over N$400 billion from Germany for the killing of over 65,000 Ovaherero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.
Representatives of the Ovaherero and Nama people are suing the German government for financial reparations for the 1904-1908 genocide in Namibia.
Thousands of Ovaherero and Nama people died during that genocide following an extermination order by the then German imperial government.
Rukoro said the affected groups exhausted all avenues in an attempt to negotiate with the German government, but to no avail.
“We tried all avenues to reach the Germans to discuss the matter through negotiations, but they refused because we are a non-sovereign body. I say that is a lame excuse because they held similar negotiations with non-sovereign groups that found themselves in a situation similar to ours. This is a racist attitude and therefore we resolved to take the legal route. Fortunately the US legal system allows people in our situation to seek justice. I am confident that justice will prevail,” he said optimistically.
Meanwhile, The Action Coalition also called on Government to clarify the fees paid to the UK-based lawyers for legal advice in the context of Namibia’s demands for genocide reparations from Germany.
The Action Coalition is made up of a number of organisations that have one common goal: the passing of legislation and policy that supports access to information as is required in a constitutional democracy.
“Access to information is a human right that enables us to ascertain how and what our government is doing with the mandate the electorate has provided. It allows us to make good choices in the future and also provides the opportunity for us to support government in their choices and to suggest alternative courses of action that may be advantageous,” said the group.
The group added: “Access to information is a prerequisite for our constitutional right to freedom of expression. Recently there have been numerous reports in our media about alleged exorbitant fees paid to legal counsel in the United Kingdom for research done around Namibia’s genocide reparations demands.
This matter was also raised in the National Assembly and responded to by the Attorney-General. Unfortunately many questions remain unanswered with one very pertinent one being why it was necessary to engage legal counsel in the United Kingdom when we have competent legal minds in Namibia?”
It has been reported that the Namibian lawyer based in the UK and her British colleagues have either no or only limited experience in international law. This has created an atmosphere in which speculation abounds.
Such speculation, according to the coalition, includes disturbing discrepancies between the various invoices, absences of clarity about time spent working on the case, questions about the numbers of hours and days worked (up to 18 hours per day over long periods while, in some instances, apparently attending to other clients) and charging fees for administrative work such as booking tickets which could have been delegated to an assistant.
“Full disclosure as to the actual fees paid and the justification for such fees could lay all speculation and suspicions of untoward conduct to rest.
Unfortunately, the lack of information has continued to fuel perceptions of wrongdoing. The Namibian people still have no idea what professional work was completed and delivered for such astronomical fees that were paid out of the national budget.
The Action Coalition called upon the Office of the Attorney-General to fully disclose the fees charged by the UK-based lawyers, including an outline of the services provided for such fees and to submit justification as to why it was necessary to engage legal counsel in the UK.

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