‘We were told to remove memorial stone after genocide day’

Genocide Remembrance Day went ahead this weekend at Lüderitz despite being snubbed by some officials.

The event was hosted by the Ovaherero Traditional Authority and the chairperson of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA).

The day aims to commemorate the lost lives of the Ovaherero and Nama people during 1904 to 1908 genocide perpetrated by German occupiers.

NTLA patron for international affairs Sima Luipert at the event said the OTA and NTLA would be erecting a memorial stone at Shark Island for the men, women and children who were starved, raped and flogged at Shark Island, and who had to dig graves and carry their loved ones’ corpses.

“We will be unveiling this memorial stone to commemorate the lives of these men, women and children who were forced to scrape the skulls of decapitated bodies, removing brains, hair and eyes from the skulls for racist scientific experimentation,” he said.

“However, we were told by the National Heritage Council (NHC) that we must remove the memorial stone after the event, as erecting a stone there still requires consultation by stakeholders and approval.

“We do not know who the stakeholders are, and when these consultations will be concluded, but it leaves us in bewilderment,” Luipert said.

National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) secretary general Joseph Kauandenge moved a motion in parliament last year calling for the establishment of a genocide museum and a genocide remembrance day after visiting Rwanda for the 145th edition of International Parliamentary Union meetings.

“It was a wake-up call to see that our forefathers are recognised internationally, but scorned in their own country, and their history is forever distorted,” he said at the time.

The organising committee members resented the treatment they received in sourcing support and financial assistance for the day, saying leading corporate institutions, such as the Namdia Trust, has denied them support.

Namdia at the time said the trust’s resources were limited, and said the insistence on support were politicising and tribalising the traditional authority’s endeavors.

NTLA Paul Thomas said they have received support from Namibia Wildlife Resorts, which has approved the hosting of the event at Shark Island.

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism provided game meat for the occasion, as well as Seaflower Whitefish Corporation and Novanam, he said.

“We feel forsaken by the corporates which attempted to politicise our requests for support,” he said.

National Heritage Council of Namibia director Erica Ndalikukule says Shark Island was declared a national heritage site.

To have the request to erect a genocide memorial on site approved, the applicant needs to be permitted by law, she says.

“The removal of the genocide memorial stone is a temporary arrangement . . . to seek input and views of the members of the public who will be in attendance of this event,” she says.

“The purpose for this stance is to ensure that the legal process . . . is adhered to, which could not be done in the short time since this application was received, and had to be facilitated among other equally important responsibilities on the agenda of the NHC,” Ndalikukule says.

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