Namibians protest as MPs to vote on German genocide deal

Germany in May described the killings of the Herero and Nama people more than a century ago as genocide for the first time.

A building of the Parliament of the Republic of Namibia is seen in Windhoek, Namibia [File: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

Hundreds of people have protested outside parliament in Namibia’s capital where an agreement with Germany, in which Germany acknowledged it committed genocide during its colonial occupation, was due to be debated.

The crowd of some 400 chanting and placard-carrying, mainly opposition activists marched on Tuesday to the parliament building in Windhoek to protest against the agreement penned earlier this year between their government and Germany.

Germany in May acknowledged it had committed genocide in colonial-era Namibia against Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908 and promised a billion euros ($1.3bn) in financial support to descendants of the victims.

Activists have rejected the offer as insufficient.

“Say no to the fake genocide deal,” read a placard. “The blood of our ancestors was not in vain” and “proper reparation now,” read others.

Inside the National Assembly, Defence Minister Frans Kapofi read a statement on his intention to table the agreement, describing it as “an achievement, of some measure, to get the Federal Republic of Germany accepting responsibility” for the genocide.

Kapofi said the government has raised concerns over the reparation amount.

“Depending on the negotiations between the parties, an improvement of the terms of reparations, particularly on quantum, is not out of the question,” the minister added.

The speaker accepted that the agreement be submitted but abruptly adjourned the session to Wednesday before it was tabled.

Members of a delegation attend a ceremony in Berlin, Germany in 2018, to hand back human remains from Germany to Namibia following the 1904-1908 genocide against the Herero and Nama. [File: Christian Mang/Reuters]

A pro-government faction of the Herero and Nama provisionally accepted Germany’s offer, one of its leaders, Gerson Katjirua, said at a news conference.

The sum will be paid across 30 years, according to sources close to the negotiations and must primarily benefit the descendants of the Herero and Nama.

“The agreement falls short … on meaningful apology and reparations … [and] contains no justice and only sharpens our pain,” Kavemuii Murangi, a descendant of one of the victims, said in a statement.

The German government has previously acknowledged “moral responsibility” for the killings but Berlin has avoided an official apology to ward off compensation claims.

 

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

In 1904, tensions boiled over when the Herero – deprived of their livestock and land – rose up, followed shortly after by the Nama.

German General Lothar von Trotha, sent to put down the rebellion, ordered the peoples’ extermination.

Historians typically accept that up to 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero and at least 10,000 of the 20,000 Nama were killed.

Colonial soldiers carried out mass executions; exiled men, women, and children to the desert where thousands died of thirst; and established infamous concentration camps, such as the one on Shark Island.

In 2015, Germany 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: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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