Germany to fund projects in Namibia to atone for colonial crimes

Namibian government says Germany will fund infrastructure, healthcare and training projects over 30 years.

Human skulls from the Herero and Nama people are displayed during a ceremony in Berlin [File: Christian Mang/Reuters]

Germany has agreed to fund projects in Namibia worth 1.1 billion euros ($1.3bn) over 30 years to atone for its role in mass killings and property seizures in its-then colony more than a century ago, according to a Namibian government spokesman.

Thousands of Herero and Nama people were killed by German colonial forces between 1904 and 1908, after the tribes rebelled against German rule in the colony, then named German South West Africa.

Survivors were driven into the desert, where many ended up in concentration camps to be used as slave labour and many died from cold, malnutrition and exhaustion.

Namibian presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari on Thursday said a joint declaration outlining the agreement was made by special envoys of both countries on May 15, at the end of a ninth round of negotiations over the issue.

Hengari said an official apology from Germany was expected, adding that “implementation modalities can only commence after the president has spoken to affected communities”, the news agency Reuters reported.

Herero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro told Reuters the reported agreement was a “sellout”.

The German foreign ministry did not immediately comment. Asked on Wednesday if a deal was close, a German foreign ministry spokesman said the minister had updated the cabinet earlier in the day on the status of the negotiations and that Germany was keeping to a confidentiality agreement with Namibia.

The killings

An estimated 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero living in German South West Africa, and 10,000 of an estimated 20,000 Namas, are said to have died during the period.

Namibian media reported earlier on Thursday that Germany had agreed to fund 1.1 billion euros ($1.3bn) of infrastructure, healthcare and training programmes that would directly benefit the affected communities.

Rukoro, who unsuccessfully sued Germany for compensation in the United States, said the reported settlement was not enough for the two communities, which had suffered “irreversible harm” at the hands of German colonial forces.

“We have a problem with that kind of an agreement, which we feel constitutes a complete sellout on the part of the Namibian government,” Rukoro told Reuters.

Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 until it lost the colony during World War I.

In 1920, the territory was placed under South African administration, until 1990 when it gained independence.

The German government has previously acknowledged “moral responsibility” for the killings, which a minister has described as “genocide”, but Berlin has avoided an official apology to ward off compensation claims.

In 2015, it began formal negotiations with Namibia over the issue and in 2018 it returned skulls and other remains of massacred tribespeople that were used in the colonial-era experiments to assert claims of European racial superiority.

Source: Reuters