Kandjemuni Kamuiiri

Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) has revealed that it and the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) has forked out million in legal fees over that past 20 years in their legal fight to compel Germany to pay reparations for the genocide committed against the tribe from 1904-08.

Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) Paramount Chief, Vekuii Rukoro, in an interview with the Windhoek Observer, although tight lipped on the exact amount, said “the cost of taking the German government to court in New York and litigating that case all the way to the highest court in the United States is indeed enormous. We are not only talking about legal fees for a team of eminent lawyers and legal researchers, but also airfares, accommodation and related expenses for our leaders traveling to New York for consultations with our lawyers, etc. To date these expenses run into millions of dollars.”

“Full details will only be made known at the end of the entire process.” Asked about the source of funding for the case, Rukoro said “expenses are being carried by the OTA and the NTLA as well as various philanthropic organisations and individuals – especially in Germany and the United States. We are determined to ensure that Germany is held fully and appropriately accountable for the Genocide committed against our ancestors, and the consequences which continue to impact us adversely today economically, politically, socially and otherwise.”

The revelation comes as a section of the descendants of the affected communities, whose ancestors suffered near annihilation by colonial Germany, continue to press on with their case by appealing to the US Supreme Court after the initial dismissal of a class action lawsuit by US District Court in Manhattan in 2017.

“We have appealed to the US Supreme Court.The Petition for a Writ of Certiorari was filed with the US Supreme Court on April 16, 2021,” Rukoro said. According to him their legal team in his view submitted compelling legal arguments challenging the erroneous ruling of the US Federal Court of the Southern District of New York.

“It is a given that there are always challenges with any court filing, but our legal team’s belief as well as our belief on the merits of the case, and with my approval, proceeded to seek relief from the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court. It is worth noting that the Jewish Heritage Foundation will file an Amicus Curiae brief in support of our petition on May 16th, 2021,” he said.

The Nama Traditional Leader Association secretary general, Deodat Dirkse, said “the appeal was done 100 percent but we have not gotten feedback yet on how far it is.”

The appeals also come as President Hage Geingob last year revealed that he had rejected an N$180 million (€10 million) reparations offer by the German government.

As many as 100,000 Ovaherero and Nama died in 1904 in a military onslaught led by then commander of Germany’s armed forces, Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, in the then South West Africa for resisting German occupation and rule.

Historians say 80 percent of the Ovaherero and at least 50 percent of the Nama people died in what is widely accepted as the first genocide of the 20th century (1904 to 1908).