Pressure Again Put on Germany

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Paramount Chief of the Herero, Kuaima Riruako, has called on the German government to appoint a Special Envoy to deal with the issue of compensation for the genocide committed against the Herero people. Speaking at the annual Red Flag commemoration at Okahandja on Sunday, Chief Riruako lashed out at the negative attitude the German government has taken towards negotiating with the Herero people. He rejected the German government’s position that it cannot negotiate directly with the Herero people because they are not a government and that it will only negotiate with the Namibian government. The war of 1904-1908 was between the German state and the Ovaherero people – who at the time were represented by their own government of the day in the lands they occupied. “Since the government of Namibia is not interested in this Ovaherero issue as such, we do not think it will be a bona fide proxy to deal with this issue on our behalf,” Riruako stated bluntly. Furthermore, the Ovaherero people have a direct vested interest in the issue and should therefore be accorded the right to represent themselves instead of being treated like ‘minors’. He proposed that if the German government feels it cannot condescend to negotiate directly with the Ovaherero, it should appoint a special envoy. According to Riruako, the Ovaherero will not be required to have the status of a government if they decide to pursue their case for compensation in the German civil courts. If that were to happen, the Namibian government would not be able to stand in for the Ovaherero because it has no locus standi in the matter. To prove his point that negotiations do not only take place at a government-to-government level, he cited the example of the United States and Cuban governments. There are no diplomatic relations between these two countries, but arrangements are made through proxies to deal with matters of common interest. “The same can be done with regard to the issue of the Ovaherero vis-ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ -vis the German government’s dialogue with them. Where there is a will there is a way,” he argued. The position of the Ovaherero people, Riruako said, is that they feel that what happened to them during the Ovaherero-German War of 1904-1908 was indeed genocide. German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation, Heidenmarie Wieczorek-Zeul, also endorsed this view in a speech given at Okakarara on August 14, 2004. “The atrocities committed at the time would today be termed genocide, and nowadays General von Trotha would be prosecuted and convicted,” she said. Wieczorek-Zeul is further quoted as saying she was speaking as German Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development and as a representative of the German government and parliament. “We say, in view thereof, this amounts to a public admission of guilt. The present German government must pay the Ovaherero compensation for what they lost as a result of that war,” Riruako stated. One of the main speakers at the event was German Bundestag member and spokesperson for The Left in the parliamentary Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development, Hueseyin Aydin. Aydin is in Namibia to show solidarity with the Ovaherero in their campaign for compensation for the atrocities committed against them. Riruako said he was deeply touched by Aydin’s gesture, and thanked him on behalf of the Ovaherero people.

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