Can the descendants of the survivors of German onslaught inflicted on the Nama, Ovambanderu and Ovaherero, culminating in extermination orders against them and their Genocide between 1904 and 1908 expect anything from the recently concluded German polls?
This is the foremost question on the lips and reflections of most Genocide descendants, and indeed bevooves them to pose and ponder such a question. With the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Socialist Union (CSU), the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FPD) emerging the four front runners. And horse trading already underway to see likely government coalition.
Ala some descendants the elections are a good omen in terms of toppling the CDU/CSU-led governing coalition. In their eyes, the CDU/CSU has been partly the spanner in the works of any likely progress on the issue of Genocide, Apology and Reparations (GAR), especially the CDU of Angela Merkel, the outgoing Chancellor. Merkel herself hails from the former Democratic Republic of Germany (GDR), or East Germany, and has been suspect by some Genocide descendants, in connivance with the Swapo Party of Namibia, bound by communist inspiration and camaraderie, have been stalling, holding if not altogether derailing GAR, hence the Joint Declaration, seen widely as a complete departure from the 2006 National Assembly Resolution.
This is why many an eye of some Genocide descendants are for now fixed on the SPD. Yes, historically, and only historically, one may have a reason to believe that an SPD-led coalition may be cordially inclined towards GAR. Historically in that August Bebel, a German socialist and cofounder of the SPD, and its most influential and popular leader for more than 40 years, was during German colonialism of Namibia, one of the few outspoken German politicians against German authorities brutalities in the then German South West Africa.
Other than that, Yours Truly Ideologically, admittedly, is ignorant of the SPD’s inclination to at best champion, if only supporting the Genocide descendants’ demand. On the contrary the latter day history of the SPD in this regard is replete with shenanigans, Machiavellianism and chicaneries.
Ardent followers and observers of the genesis of the demand for reparations, which started gaining momentum after the 2004 centenary commemoration of Genocide, graced by then German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, SPD’s Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, may well be aware that shortly after that, or during the same time, the idea of a Reconciliation Fund was mooted and hatched. This was followed, equally with the initiative and drive of none other than Wieczorek-Zeul, by the Special Initiative (SI). No single report became public. If any report about the SI was ever produced, to date it remains classified. Not to speak of its tangible impact on its target audience, the affected communities, which was negligible, if not zero
At Ohamakari at the centenary commemoration of Genocide, Wieczorek-Zeul’s purported apology was later condemned in the German Parliament upon her return to Germany, with few if any of her SPD colleagues defending her, if not at the forefront of chastising her.
In 2007 the Lefty Party introduced a motion in the German Parliament on Genocide and Reparations. Late Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Kuaima Riruako, was in Berlin at the time. Although his presence was widely acknowledged by the German parliamentarians, it was not enough to convince them to agree to and adopt the motion. “The motion that the Links Party tabled in the Bundestag does not seek to open up old wounds. It is only posing a simple question. Why does the German government not want to talk to my people, the Ovaherero people, and the Nama people? This is the question that I want you the media, and indeed through you the entire peace-loving people of the Federal Republic of Germany to help us get an answer to from the Government of this beautiful, progressive and peace-loving country, “pleaded the Paramount Chief. Among the SPD members of the Bundestag was Professor Gert Weiskirchen. His apologetics for not supporting the motion included not wanting to compare the lives of the people to 650million Euros worth of development aid that Germany gives Namibia. Deferring the house to a subsequent motion the SPD would introduce, that apparently would be politically non-partisan. Indeed the motion did not go through.
“The German Bundestag calls upon the Federal Government: 1. to live up to its special historic responsibility and to acknowledge the fact that the war of extermination waged against the Herero, Nama and other peoples in the former colony of German South West Africa was genocide as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” reads part of a motion of 29 February, 2012 by the Left Party (Die Linke). Was another motion which also did not go through.
These are but only a few examples where and when the SPD had the chance in the Bundesliga to deliver the descendants of Genocide but did not. Is there thus any reason for any confidence in the would-be SPD-led coalition? Only for the dreaded Reconciliation and Reconstruction proposal to reappear via the equally dreaded Joint Declaration just before the SPD edging the CDU/CSU in the polls.
The whole of Europe’s eyes were fixed on the outcome of the elections in Germany. This is not without any reason. Germany is a European regional political and economic powerhouse. In this regard one cannot but recall an article titled, Reparations and Nation-building, by the Marxist Study Group’s, Shaun Whittaker and Harry Boesak this July. “The Israel model of reparations is never going to materialise in Namibia or the Global South at this juncture. Global power relations simply do not make it possible now. It is completely unrealistic to think otherwise.” This observation is surely noteworthy. Because in terms of the global power relations alluded to, the Nama, Ovaherero and Ovambanderu are an insignificant people. As much as their Government, purported to act on their behalf, that also realistically and admittedly, is not a significant player as far as Germany, let alone other global powerhouse are concerned. Thus until the international progressive fraternity becomes conscious of the descendants’ demand, and rally behind them in solidarity, they and their Government, one is to give our Namibian government the benefit of the doubt regarding its commitment to the Genocide issue, will remain beggars who cannot choose. This is essentially what the Joint Declaration embodies and epitomises.
But as they say to every dark cloud there is a silver lining and the SPD may be, only may be, this silver lining perhaps.