‘Germany is running away from its sins in Namibia’

CRISIS … Palestinians line up for food during the ongoing Israeli air-and-ground offensive in Rafah. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 576 600 Palestinian civilians are facing “catastrophic hunger and starvation” amid the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza, while more than 23 000 Palestinians have been killed.Photo: Al Jazeera

Former South West Africa National Union (Swanu) parliamentarian Usutuaije Maamberua says Germany’s refusal to recognise ongoing atrocities committed by Israel in Palestine is an attempt to run away from the genocide it committed in Namibia between 1904 and 1908.

Germany massacred more than 70 000 Herero and Nama people at the time, which historians consider as the 20th century’s first genocide.

“The guilt of Germany, started with the Ovaherero and Nama genocide of 1904 to 1908 and the Holocaust of 1939 to 1945. That guilt is permanent on the psyche of Germany.

There is no way that guilt will be erased. Therefore, what they are trying to do is pretend that it sides with Israel, indirectly wanting to apologise to the Jews which they killed from 1939 to 1945,” he says.

Spokesperson for the German embassy in Namibia Gundula Perry says the embassy will provide a response to the criticism today.

Maamberua says Germany is showing the world that they are people who are not involved in genocidal activities so that the world can forget the Ovaherero and Nama genocide.

“They want to portray themselves as good people and [that] they could not have committed genocide in Namibia, but they are wasting their time, they are not going to erase our history. They are not going to change anything,” Maamberua says.

He says Germany has a very serious case to answer for the atrocities they committed against the Ovaherero and Nama.

“The Namibian government should actually divorce itself from the chicanery of Germany and side fully with the Ovaherero and Nama people so they can get fair reparations in terms of international law.”

So far, more than 23 000 people have been killed in Palestine since 7 October, with nearly 10 000 being children.

As far back as January 2009, Swanu condemned Israel for their actions in Gaza, calling for an immediate ceasefire and Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territories,

In 2016, Maamberua moved a motion in parliament for 28 May to officially be declared and recognised as the National Genocide Remembrance Day, because it was on 28 May 1908 when the genocide against the Nama and Ovaherero ended and all concentration camps were officially ordered to close in Namibia.

President Hage Geingob also expressed concern over Germany’s decision to reject the indictment brought forth by South Africa against Israel for the war in Gaza.

Geingob on Saturday said the timing of Germany’s stance, given its historical responsibility for the first genocide of the 20th century on Namibian soil, raises troubling questions about its moral compass.

Geingob, highlighting Germany’s unresolved culpability for the Namibian genocide of 1904-1908, criticised the nation’s inability to learn from its horrific past.

“Germany cannot morally express commitment to the United Nations Convention against genocide, including atonement for the genocide in Namibia while supporting the equivalent of a holocaust and genocide in Gaza,” Geingob’s press secretary, Alfredo Hengari, said.

Hengari said various international organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, have concluded that Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza.

“No peace-loving human being can ignore the carnage waged against Palestinians in Gaza,” Geingob said.

Geingob appealed to the German government to reconsider its untimely decision to intervene as a third-party in defence and support of the genocidal acts of Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Political analyst Henning Melber says it is tragically ironic that 120 years after the German-Namibian War and the subsequent Ovaherero-Nama genocide, Germany openly aligns itself with Israel’s alleged war crimes in the Gaza siege.

“Given this constellation and the specific German-Namibian history, in which Germany committed the first genocide of the 20th century in its colony, president Geingob’s strong worded reaction reflects the emotions of many Namibians in response to what they perceive as double standards and moral hypocrisy,” Melber says.

Melber adds that negotiations spanning eight years between the German and Namibian governments have sidestepped a formal apology and recognition of genocide, without imposing reparations obligations.

This contrasts with Germany’s approach to the Holocaust.

He says Geingob’s statement signals a broader resistance in the Global South against Western hegemony and selective power dynamics.

“Nonetheless, it is surprising that president Geingob used such strong words of rather undiplomatic language. It will be interesting to see if and how the German officials respond to this clear message. It will also be interesting to see how the Namibian government now goes about the joint declaration with Germany.”

Reparation agreements between the German and Namibian governments for the genocide against the Herero and Nama of Namibia from 1904-1908 are yet to be finalised.

Representatives from both the Nama and Ovaherero communities have rejected the 2021 joint declaration reached between the German and Namibian governments.

This agreement proposes a €1,1 billion development funding over a span of 30 years.

“This statement by president Geingob has created a new reference point in the German-Namibian relations and might well be a turning point. It remains to be seen how this plays out,” Melber says.

Melber adds that despite any heinous actions by Hamas, one crime cannot justify another, leading to the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives, predominantly women and children, and the forced displacement of 85% of Gaza’s population.

Former ambassador Pius Dunaiski, who served as a diplomat in Germany between 2004 and 2006, says he is not surprised by Germany’s decision to support Israel.

“I am not surprised by the decision by its government to support Israel at the ICJ in the genocide case brought by South Africa. Germany was also a third party at the ICJ for the recent cases of Rohingyas vs Myanmar and Ukraine vs Russia.”

Dunaiski emphasises the need for level-headedness in seeking a comprehensive peace, advocating a two-state solution with demilitarised zones to ensure lasting security for both the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

“Stopping the war is important to return to genuine negotiations. But it takes two to tango,” Dunaiski says.

Meanwhile, legal adviser of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tal Becker on Friday told the ICJ that Israel is fully aware of the tenets of the Genocide Convention, seeing as the country and its people have a long history with genocide, starting with the systematic murder of six million Jews in the German Holocaust.

“Given the Jewish people’s history and its foundational texts, it is not surprising that Israel was among the first states to ratify the Genocide Convention without reservation and to incorporate its provisions in its domestic legislation. For some, the promise of ‘never again for all peoples’ is a slogan, for Israel it is a moral obligation,” Becker said.

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