Genocide officially commemorated in Lüdeirtz

Niël Terblanché

The genocide perpetrated against the Nama and Herero people while Namibia was under the colonial rule of Germany at the beginning of the previous century has for the first time been officially commemorated by the descendants of the victims.

The date of the event is crucial because, on 22nd April 1905, German General Lothar von Trotha issued his Extermination order against the Nama people.

A three-day event that started on Friday and culminated on Sunday was held at Lüderitz where the leaders of the Nama and Ovaherero traditional authorities, Gaob Johannes Isaack and Paramount Chief Professor Mutjinde Katjiua, officially unveiled the tombstone on Shark Island where prisoners of war were incarcerated.

A majority of the 10 000 people who were incarcerated in the concentration camp on Shark Island between 1904 and 1908, died of hunger and neglect. Prisoners of war were exposed to brutal weather conditions and forced labour.

The program of the memorial event included a Genocide Memorial Walk, a Memorial Service, a traditional gala dinner, various lectures and traditional rituals. The main event was the unveiling of the memorial tombstone on behalf of NTLA, OTA and OGF

The memorial tombstone will finally provide a space for mourning, grieving and seeking healing for the families and descendants of the victims, as well as descendants of the perpetrators.

The memorial tombstone will create awareness for visitors to get an understanding of the horrible past of Shark Island. Currently, there is no memorial on Shark Island, that remembers the around 4000 people that were killed in the camp.

The Society for Threatened Peoples, an organization based in Germany provided the funds for the manufacturing and the eventual installation of the memorial tombstone on Shark Island.

According to Nandiuasora Mazeingo, who heads the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation, a non-profit group advocating for restorative justice for descendants of victims.

“Namibia has no official day designated to commemorate what some historians have described as the 20th century’s first genocide. We have taken it upon ourselves to remember the day, at Shark Island,” Mazeingo said.

In August 1904, German soldiers chased around 80 000 Herero people into the Kalahari Desert.

The following year, on April 22, 1905, German military commander General Lothar von Trotha, ordered the extermination of the Nama. By 1908, the German soldiers managed to kill at least 60 000 Hereros and about 10 000 Namas.

In 2021 Germany acknowledged that it had committed “genocide” in Namibia, which it colonised between 1884 and 1915. The acknowledgement was the result of several court cases and lengthy negotiations,

The German government offered to pay reparations to the tune of N$20 billion but stated that it would take the form of development aid that would spread over 30 years to benefit genocide descendants.

The method by which the reparations would have been paid was not accepted by the genocide descendants and all concerned parties want to reopen the negotiation process.

Mazingo described the genocide as the most grotesque and brutal act of criminality that took place in the territory of Namibia.

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