Namibia’s witnessed conspicuous absence fromthe Accra Reparations Conference needs explaining!

FROM 14-17 November the African Union (AU) and the government of Ghana hosted the first ever Afrikan Reparations Conference in Accra, Ghana.

To formulate a common agenda and front by the African nations and countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to continue with claims, foremost from the European Union (EU) nations, for their supreme role in the Transatlantic trade in slavery. In a nutshell for colonial crimes perpetrated by the European countries against Afrikans. This a historic first for Afrika and needless to say overdue. Because the Afrikans in the Diaspora, notably in the Carribean, through CARICOM have already taken an initiative, and a bold one for that matter in this regard. As evidenced by the CARICOM Ten Point Plan for Reparatory Justice with the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) asserting that European Governments:

• Were owners and traders of enslaved Afrikans.

• Instructed genocidal actions upon indigenous communities.

• Created the legal, financial and fiscal policies necessary for the enslavement of Afrikans.

Defined and enforced Afrikan enslavement and native genocide as in their ‘national interests’.

Refused compensation to the enslaved with the ending of their enslavement.

Compensated slave owners at emancipation for the loss of legal property rights in enslaved Africans.

Imposed a further one hundred years of racial Apartheid upon the emancipated.

Imposed for another one hundred years policies designed to perpetuate suffering upon the emancipated and survivors of genocide.

And have refused to acknowledge such crimes or to compensate victims and their descendants.

In the United States of America (USA), reparations can be traced back as far back as 1865 with the 40 acres and a mule scheme through which former slaves were awarded land in compensation, if not earlier. Back on home turf, in Namibia, the reparations movement essentially started a good 14 years after independence. But historical account have it that erstwhile Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Hosea Kutako, did raise the matter with his aide then, none other than Reverend Michael Scott, who advised him to rather shelve this matter until after decolonisation.

In fact since 1924, with the repatriation of the remains of Paramount Chief Samuel Maharero from Botswana, where he had died in 1923, Kutako declared an annual pilgrim to Okahandja to commemorate the reburial of Maharero. But essentially and effectively the war of resistance and thus genocide. Symbolically and purposefully this can be seen as the birth of the reparations movement in Namibia.

The Accra Reparations Conference brought together an eclectic group of Pan Africanists, among them statesmen and women, reparations activists, scholars and politicians, researchers, you name them. Namibia was also represented by, among others, if not only activist Jephta Nguherimo, a descendant of the survivors of the genocide of the genocide committed by Imperial Germany against the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama, currently resident in the United States of America and founder of the Ovaherero People’s Memorial and Reconstruction Foundation. As well as lawyer Patrick Kauta, who is currently challenging in the Namibian High Court, on behalf of the descendants, the Namibian government and its German counterpart’s Joint Declaration (JD). And his partner in the challenge, Karina Theurer, a lawyer herself and suspected to be the prime mover and/or advisor for the challenge to be instituted and/or initiated. While some African countries were represented by high profile delegations, notably South Africa from South
ern Africa, only private individuals from Namibia are known to have been present at the said conference. Not strange given that they are the descendants of genocide in Namibia and thus the legitimate owners and should be of the cause and its processes. But the Namibian government, said to be represented by the High Commissioner to Ghana, Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, and a counsellor from the High Commission, could not and were not accounted for and witnessed, by among others, fellow diplomats in Accra present at the conference. Nor did she feature anywhere on the conference’s programme or the attendance register.

It is not difficult to comprehend Namibia’s suspect absence from the Accra Reparations Conference, given the government’s obvious dilly-dallying and ambivalence, and her German counterpart’s continued intransigence on reparations. Lately such has been buttressed by information that the two countries are planning to seal the JD by next March. Which may be likely confirmed by an invitation extended to traditional leaders “to a meeting to update the affected communities on the status of the genocide negotiations between Namibia and Germany”, on the 1904-1908 genocide. Which is on 30 November in Windhoek (But now understandably been postponed till further notice).

Thus, Namibian government being a bedfellow with Germany, given the nature and radical intent of the Accra Conference, albeit in the eyes of many former colonial powers, least not Germany, one cannot see what business Namibia, and her government, and the Berlin government either, would have had or would in the future have in attending any Accra-like conference if not only “as part of standard diplomatic engagement”. As the British Foreign Office explained attendance of its own High Commissioner or whoever may have attended on her behalf the just ended Accra Conference.

Copycats that the Namibian and German governments are on reparations, the suspect absence of the Namibian government from the Accra Reparations Conference, is not surprising. Not given her assumed bilateral relations, if not neo-colonial relations whereby Germany essentially continues to call the tunes, as proven by the JD, unilaterally drafted by Germany herself for Namibia to accept and endorse without question. And as German Member of Parliament, Sevim Dagdelen, opined during her visit to Namibia last year, that relations between Namibia and Germany, essentially remains one of a former colonial master and former colony. Lest it be forgotten Namibia’s other former colonial master is Apartheid South Africa, the successor thereof which is today’s government of the African National Congress (ANC). Would the Swapo Party government dare institute reparations claim against it?

So given the envisaged sealing of the JD, Namibia has little motivation being part of an initiative for reparations for colonial crimes. Her actions since her involvement, and prcatically her hijacking of the cause of reparations and its usurping to advance her parochial interests and relations with Germany, have been speaking to no more than her own agenda, and by extension that of Germany. Many a behaviour backed by pronouncements by many an officials of both the Swapo Party of Namibia, and high-ranking government officials, including the President himself of both Swapo and the country, have been speaking to no more than an own agenda, which has nothing to do with the agenda and interests of the descendants of the survivors of genocide.

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