Govt supports Herero reparation demands

Govt supports Herero reparation demands

ANY Namibian who feels wronged has a right to seek justice, Prime Minister Nahas Angula told a high-level meeting of Hereros and Mbanderus at Okakarara this past weekend.

“The question of reparations should be understood from such a perspective,” the Prime Minister said. The Herero and Mbanderu communities, who suffered atrocities under German colonial rule, are seeking reparations from Germany.They were decimated to just 20 per cent of their original strength a century ago.Angula was attending Saturday’s opening session of the fourth summit of the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu Genocide Committee of 1904 (OCD 1904).”In my view, the demand for reparations should be a long-term objective,” Angula told about 800 delegates, including chiefs from the different Herero royal houses.Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako was not present, however.The Prime Minister noted that demands for reparations should form part of a global campaign “for reparations against those who perpetuated slavery, colonial genocide, other forms off colonial abuses and exploitation against the African people”.Such a campaign required global mobilisation and public campaigns, Angula stated.European countries should consider the indigenous people in the countries that they colonised.”In this regard, the efforts by your Council (of the Genocide Committee) to mobilise public opinion and in Germany and lawmakers is a step in the right direction.Restorative justice and reparation demands are not mutually exclusive, but form a continuum,” the Prime Minister said.The meeting at Okakarara coincided with the centenary commemoration on Shark Island at Luederitz, where Nama Chief David Frederick on Saturday also demanded compensation from Germany for atrocities committed against his people 100 years ago.The event was also attended by a delegation of Herero speakers.Thousands of Namas and Hereros had to live in inhumane conditions as war prisoners in a concentration camp on Shark Island and nearly 10 000 perished there.A similar plea was made by Nama Chief Hendrik Witbooi in 2005, during a centenary commemoration for his great-grandfather, the legendary Hendrik Witbooi, who was felled by a German bullet.According to Mike Kavekotora, Chairman of OCD 1904, the Committee will continue to strive for a constructive and structured dialogue with the German government on reparations.”The special initiative of Germany cannot and should not be linked to our demand for reparation,” he read out from a communiqué issued on Sunday.”We will also engage the other affected communities,” he added.The Namibian Government should play “a facilitating role” with regard to that envisaged dialogue with the affected communities and Germany “without delay”, he stated.”The Herero communities in the diaspora are included in our demand for dialogue and reparation,” Kavekotora added.Herero people still live in Botswana, South Africa and Angola, where they fled after a 1904 extermination order issued by General Lothar von Trotha.Aware of the split in the Herero and Mbanderu communities with one group centred around Chief Riruako, mainly those who are not Swapo sympathisers and others who seek political orientation in Swapo circles and among other Herero Chiefs, the Okakarara summit decided to appoint a high-level committee under Senior Traditional Councillor Hau Katjatenja to address the problem of disunity.The next summit on the reparations issue will be held at Vaalgras in southern Namibia later this year.When the 2004 centenary commemorations took place at Okakarara, German Economic Co-operation Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul asked the Herero and Mbanderu communities for “forgiveness”, which some groups interpreted as an official apology by the German government.Others, however, saw it as falling just short of that.Immediately afterwards, Paramount Chief Riruako called on Germany to enter into dialogue with his people to encourage further steps of reconciliation and to heed to reparation demands.A few years ago, a group under Riruako lodged a US$2 billion lawsuit against the German government and another against German banks and other companies which had set up branches in Namibia during colonial rule (1884 to 1915), which is still pending.The present government in Berlin has so far refused to pay the Hereros any compensation or reparations, saying it was not the direct successor of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II, which collapsed in 1918.The Hereros argue that Germany paid billions to Jews and their descendants after the Holocaust, when about six million Jews were killed.International lawyers believe that should Germany start paying reparations to the Hereros, it would start a flood of claims from people in the former colonies of Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Belgium.Germany’s Minister Wieczorek-Zeul in 2005 announced a “special reconciliation initiative” of 20 million euros for development projects benefiting the communities that suffered under Germany’s colonial rule.The word “reconciliation” was dropped recently.A memorandum of understanding on that issue was to be signed during President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s state visit to Germany in November 2005, but he declined, citing the need for consultations with the affected communities.These were carried out by Government last year and now include the Herero, Mbanderu, Nama, Damara and San communities.The Herero and Mbanderu communities, who suffered atrocities under German colonial rule, are seeking reparations from Germany.They were decimated to just 20 per cent of their original strength a century ago.Angula was attending Saturday’s opening session of the fourth summit of the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu Genocide Committee of 1904 (OCD 1904).”In my view, the demand for reparations should be a long-term objective,” Angula told about 800 delegates, including chiefs from the different Herero royal houses.Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako was not present, however.The Prime Minister noted that demands for reparations should form part of a global campaign “for reparations against those who perpetuated slavery, colonial genocide, other forms off colonial abuses and exploitation against the African people”.Such a campaign required global mobilisation and public campaigns, Angula stated.European countries should consider the indigenous people in the countries that they colonised.”In this regard, the efforts by your Council (of the Genocide Committee) to mobilise public opinion and in Germany and lawmakers is a step in the right direction.Restorative justice and reparation demands are not mutually exclusive, but form a continuum,” the Prime Minister said.The meeting at Okakarara coincided with the centenary commemoration on Shark Island at Luederitz, where Nama Chief David Frederick on Saturday also demanded compensation from Germany for atrocities committed against his people 100 years ago.The event was also attended by a delegation of Herero speakers.Thousands of Namas and Hereros had to live in inhumane conditions as war prisoners in a concentration camp on Shark Island and nearly 10 000 perished there.A similar plea was made by Nama Chief Hendrik Witbooi in 2005, during a centenary commemoration for his great-grandfather, the legendary Hendrik Witbooi, who was felled by a German bullet.According to Mike Kavekotora, Chairman of OCD 1904, the Committee will continue to strive for a constructive and structured dialogue with the German government on reparations.”The special initiative of Germany cannot and should not be linked to our demand for reparation,” he read out from a communiqué issued on Sunday.”We will also engage the other affected communities,” he added.The Namibian Government should play “a facilitating role” with regard to that envisaged dialogue with the affected communities and Germany “without delay”, he stated.”The Herero communities in the diaspora are included in our demand for dialogue and reparation,” Kavekotora added.Herero people still live in Botswana, South Africa and Angola, where they fled after a 1904 extermination order issued by General Lothar von Trotha.Aware of the split in the Herer
o and Mbanderu communities with one group centred around Chief Riruako, mainly those who are not Swapo sympathisers and others who seek political orientation in Swapo circles and among other Herero Chiefs, the Okakarara summit decided to appoint a high-level committee under Senior Traditional Councillor Hau Katjatenja to address the problem of disunity.The next summit on the reparations issue will be held at Vaalgras in southern Namibia later this year.When the 2004 centenary commemorations took place at Okakarara, German Economic Co-operation Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul asked the Herero and Mbanderu communities for “forgiveness”, which some groups interpreted as an official apology by the German government.Others, however, saw it as falling just short of that.Immediately afterwards, Paramount Chief Riruako called on Germany to enter into dialogue with his people to encourage further steps of reconciliation and to heed to reparation demands.A few years ago, a group under Riruako lodged a US$2 billion lawsuit against the German government and another against German banks and other companies which had set up branches in Namibia during colonial rule (1884 to 1915), which is still pending.The present government in Berlin has so far refused to pay the Hereros any compensation or reparations, saying it was not the direct successor of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II, which collapsed in 1918.The Hereros argue that Germany paid billions to Jews and their descendants after the Holocaust, when about six million Jews were killed.International lawyers believe that should Germany start paying reparations to the Hereros, it would start a flood of claims from people in the former colonies of Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Belgium.Germany’s Minister Wieczorek-Zeul in 2005 announced a “special reconciliation initiative” of 20 million euros for development projects benefiting the communities that suffered under Germany’s colonial rule.The word “reconciliation” was dropped recently.A memorandum of understanding on that issue was to be signed during President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s state visit to Germany in November 2005, but he declined, citing the need for consultations with the affected communities.These were carried out by Government last year and now include the Herero, Mbanderu, Nama, Damara and San communities.

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