Tujoromajo Kasuto and Kandjemuni Kamuiiri
Political commentators in Namibia and abroad have urged the German government to relook at its offer and how it handled negotiations that have led to a deal being announced between the country and the Namibian government.
This comes as representatives of the descendants of the victims of the genocide have unanimously rejected the deal as well as an apology offered by German Foreign Affairs Minister, Heiko Maas.
On the rejections of the deal in Namibia, President of the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS) and German Historian, Jürgen Zimmerer, stated that “it is a missed opportunity for reconciliation and healing as the most affected groups have not been included to their satisfaction. Germany now has to restart the process.”
Zimmerer shared that the way forward now is for “the German president or at least the Foreign minister to reach out to the affected groups within Namibia, in Diaspora and apologise for the way the negotiations were conducted from the German side.” He added “if that cannot be healed, it is dead in the water as far as reconciliation is concerned. Germany for sure will try to move on, saying that it has atoned for genocide, but this will bring no closure.”
“The deal should either be amended or they must now try to reach a second agreement with the affected communities,” he advised. Zimmer revealed that he, along with colleagues, had written to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel in 2019 urging her to include the affected communities in negotiations.
Meanwhile political analyst, Ndumba Kamwayah, observed that “it is a bad deal in terms of reparation, when you look at the amount of course we cannot value human life in terms of money. The amount we are given makes you question the genuineness of the German government in committing to this process.’’ He, however, said that the deal could lead to other settlements in terms of negotiations between the two countries.
Kamwayah added that government as a facilitator on behalf of victims should have brought in the descendants of the victims for consultation and kept them in light of the deal negotiations before accepting the deal, thus mitigating any negative reactions from affected communities.
According to Ndumba, the issue regarding accepting the deal and the apology issued by Germany is personal and cannot be legislated by policies and government.
On allegations that the genocide reparations could also be used to fund government developmental plans, including the Harambee Prosperity Plan 2, Kamanyah said, “how are you going to separate when you implement the project that this is an affected and this is a non-affected individual. It needs to be relooked because that is what Germany has been doing here in the country through the bilateral agreement between the two governments.” Kamwayah called for a third party to be involved to carrying out the calculation of how much should be paid.
This comes as Chief of the Zeraeua Traditional Authority (ZTA), Manase Zeraeua, had initially proposed $16 trillion, which was later cut to N$8 trillion. “It is difficult to put monetary value on human life, but it should be a substantial amount that can be compared to what was paid to the Jews.” The life expectancy of the deal, which is to be paid over 30 years was also questioned, with the University of Namibia (Unam) lecturer stating that “victims very close to the descendants might not be around.”
Political analyst, Henning Melber, stated that while it was the first time that a former colonial power on a state-to-state level is willing to officially acknowledge historical injustices, and also agrees to term the warfare as genocide, it is however falling short of a legal acknowledgement, which would have reparations as a consequence.
“Germany was keen to avoid precedence beyond the Namibian case. But it is a step hitherto no other colonial power has taken. This should be acknowledged, despite all the shortfalls, which at a closer look make this not a success story,” he said.
According to Melber, the proposed amount of 1.1 billion Euros over 30 years show little remorse compared to the same amount that was raised in 2004 from German private donations and Government humanitarian aid within six months after the Tsumani that hit Indonesia.
“The German capital Berlin has in this annual budget more than 10 bill Euro expenditure only for personal costs this puts the 1.1 bill over 30 years into a perspective.”
Melber further termed the deal as rushed, reflecting Government’s desperate need for some good news to share with the country.
“It also might be a result of the desire to show after a decline in confidence and trust by the voters in the last elections a success story by having struck a deal,” he said.
On the possibility that the money might end up funding the Harambee Prosperity Plan 2, Melber stated, “if these projects are to the benefit of the communities (Ovaherero, Nama, Damara and San), then it does not matter if this comes under the flag of the agreement of HPP2 – the improvement of their well-being is what matters most.”
“Germany should enter a commitment to buy the land expropriated for return to the affected communities. This would require in addition investments into the infrastructure of the land and training of those resettled, to be able to make a meaningful living from the land.”
This comes as Chief Tjipene Keja had raised concern over the lack of a addressing the issue of land that had been forcibly taken. “We do not have land. White people are in possession of the land, and the German citizens that are also here are in possession of land,” he said.
Political analyst, Hoze Riruako, stated that the deal was a step in the right direction, adding, “the fact that they apologised also adds value to what we have been fighting for all along.” He however, like Melber, took issue with the amount offered. “They don’t respect us, if we were European they wouldn’t have come up with such a ridiculous amount of money. It’s just because we are black. The amount is not only low but there are many issues that need clarity. The money to be paid must be given to the affected groups directly. It must not be project money to be channeled through Government projects like any other money,” Riruako said.
“The person who drives the genocide was the late Chief Riruako who brought the motion to Parliament, it was not the Government who went to the affected people.”
Former Botswana President, Ian Khama, has also called for Ovaherero living in Botswana to also to be catered for under the agreement to be signed. “It is my hope that those in Botswana will also benefit from such support,” Khama said in a social media post.