Namibian-German relationship at 25

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AS we turn and celebrate 25 years of sovereignty, peace and tranquillity tomorrow, focus cannot but rightly partly fall on the 25 years of Namibia’s relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany.

To celebrate this relationship, a series of activities have been organised in what has been typified as “Deutsche Wochen Namibia 2015 (Namibia 2015 German Weeks) culminating, among others, in the visit today of the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Horst Koehler, as one of the highlights.

Certainly in view of the relative peace, stability and tranquillity that Namibia has been experiencing over the last 25 years, there is and must be a cause for celebration. As much this is a reason to celebrate the occasion also offers a golden opportunity to not only purposefully, honestly and earnestly reflect on this relationship but to put it in its proper historical perspective and context.

As often this relationship may have been celebrated and trumpeted, and rightly so for having further cemented German-Namibian post-independence political, socio-economic and even cultural relationships, catapulting such to greater heights, disproportional and unheard of in the dark colonial era, rarely has this relationship been given its proper meaning.

This meaning, context and perspective cannot be anything other than the bitter genocide Namibians endured, perpetuated against their forebears by the occupying forces of Imperial Germany, especially dating back to the late 1800s when erstwhile Ovambanderu Chief, Kahimemua Nguvauva, and Ovaharero warrior Nicodemus Kambahahiza Kavikunua were captured and eventually executed near Gross Barmen (Otjikango) on June 12, 1896.

Subsequently respective Namibian indigenous peoples were subjected to various separate genocidal onslaughts by the armed forces of Imperial Germany’s Third Reich, especially in the years 1904 to 1908, and concentration camps in which many of them including women and children, were incarcerated and ultimately succumbed.

These genocidal onslaughts were especially carried through on the basis of two extermination orders issued, announced and implemented, one on October 2, 1904, against the Ovaherero, and another on April 5, 1905, against the Nama. Three quarters of the Ovaherero, and nearly half of the Nama were annihilated. Others were exiled, and that is why to this day many of the descendants of the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama are scatted in neighbouring countries like Botswana and South Africa.

Not to mention their decimation through German male soldiers to the extent that many children were so born who are today practically a stateless people while still others born outside Namibia are without Namibian citizenship.

Hence the recent motion in the National Assembly by Kazenambo Kazenambo, himself a descendant of these brave nationalists born in Botswana.

The very same month that the German weeks started, indigenous Namibians were in Swakopmund, the weekend of March 13-15, in what has become a traditional historic retreat to remember the very victims of Imperial Germany who perished in one of the many concentration camps of Imperial Germany in the Namibia of that time, meant for the indigenes.

At the same time as the descendants of the victims of Imperial Germany were paying homage in Swakopmund, their fellow Namibian Germans or German Namibians, were engaged, oblivious and unconcerned and unhindered, in their own observance of the “deutsche woche”, apparently in the observance of Namibian-German relations after 25 years.

These activities are to continue until June, all of them with little pretence at remembering, let alone thinking about what transpired in this country more than a hundred years ago when thousands of indigenes succumbed at the hands of Imperial Germany’s armed servicemen.
Perhaps the only thing closer to the genocidal epochs of between the late 1800s and early 1900s, is a panel discussion featuring, among others, Professor Joe Diescho, titled “Rethinking Namibian-German Relations”, and another with retired bishop Dr Zephania Kameeta reflecting on “German Missionaries and their Influence on Namibia.”

It remains to be seen whether these discussions are and have been intended in anyway to contextualise and posit the Namibian-German relationship in its proper politico-historic context?

Often experience has shown normally such events have been cast in glamorous and superficial contexts far removed from their actual historic contexts, which is the genocide of the indigene Namibians.

One legacy of this relationship, is the German-Namibian Special Initiative, meant to benefit the cultural communities directly affected by Imperial Germany’s genocidal acts in Namibia. Well intended as it may have been, this initiative has not been without its problematics.
As a result this Special Initiative has as yet to find meaningful practical essence among the communities that it has presumably been intended to benefit.

Time and again leaders of the affected communities have been on record emphasising the need for a wholesome review of this Special Initiative, one of their submissions having been that it has unilaterally been incepted and imposed on them without them being consulted.
Not only this but some of the projects so far implemented have been but of any significance, and of negligible impact, on the affected communities.

Hence, one would think, the invitations lately for those who may be interested to submit or show interest in submitting proposals to review and/or assess the impact of the initiative.

This is oblivious and ignorant of the fact that the affected communities have and shall forever remain suspicious of the Special Initiative, as no more than a deliberate ploy to detract from their demand for reparations, which is and should be the cardinal issue as far as the German-Namibian relationship is concerned. This is if this avowed relationship is by any means to be viewed in its proper historical context.

Sadly this seems a message or reality that has as yet to dawn on the powers that be, especially the government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

That is why the 25 years of relationships between Namibia and Germany cannot be celebrated properly if not with the long overdue refocusing on its relevant and proper historical context, ultimately giving due regard to the vexed and just demand of the indigenous for reparations.

The ducking, dilly-dallying, procrastination, shying away from the real issue as well as keeping it off the political agenda of both Namibia and Germany in Machiavellian manner, shall bear no fruit nor shall it continue to do justice to the German-Namibian relationship.

“What does Namibia expect from our new Members of Parliament?” is a question that Professor Diescho has been tasked to ponder at a public lecture that forms part of the “deutsche woche” activities. I am inclined to give the answer but can there really be any doubt what the answer must and should be?

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