Will Reparations Ever Be on German Agenda?

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By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro OKAHANDJA There is a need for the Social Democratic Party in Germany and its sympathisers in the German Parliament, the Bundestag, to table a motion to put the issue of apology and reparations formally on the German agenda, says former Namibian Member of Parliament, Moses Katjiuongua. Katjiuongua spoke on Saturday evening at a fund-raising dinner of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee. He noted that it is about two years since the apology by the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, at Ohamakari, for the atrocities of colonial Germany against the Namibian people. However, he said, an apology without reparations was not only just not good enough, but was also empty talk. Events since the apology have indicated that it was indeed empty talk. Members of Wieczorek-Zeul’s own party have not only rejected the concept of reparations, but the minister herself has since come up “with a funny idea of a so-called Special Initiative as a proposal to the Namibian government, not to Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako”. He reiterated the Ovaherero position on the issue, saying: “They have nothing to do with either a so-called Reconciliation Fund or its concubine, the so-called Special Initiative Concept.” Katjiuongua said the German government has not only been slippery but the German society has been divided on the issue. Equally, the Namibian government, which he said was showing a growing and indirect interest in the issue, should be asked to table a motion in Parliament “to make this issue official State business to be able to take this question to the International Court of Justice at The Hague”. Katjiuongua cautioned against taking the matter into own hands in the face of stubbornness on the part of the Namibian government, as per the call of some people. He advised that “no responsible Namibian leader, let alone the Ovaherero leaders, would want to be forced into allowing an operation-of-jungle justice. “Our problem is with the German government and not with the German people,” he accentuated. Katjiuongua trusted that the German people in Germany and the Namibian Germans would not allow themselves to become apologists for German genocide and colonialism. While government-to-government relations between Germany and Namibia may be solid, as per Namibia’s Ambassador to Berlin, Hanno Rumpf, Katjiuongua was categorical that, as far as the “patriotic Namibian Otjiherero speakers are concerned, we are still in a conflict situation with Germany.” He said the German government has been inconsistent – if not opportunistic – and dishonest on the issue, swinging between legal technicalities and moral obligations. Now that “a so-called apology” has been made, he said it was a matter of techniques how to pay reparations. “If the Government of democratic Germany can pay for the sins of Hitler, why can’t it also compensate for the evils of Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany?” he asked. He said the lack of eagerness among European powers to take up the issue was for fear that a pay-off would invite multitudes of similar claims for colonial-era crimes. Referring to Dirk Sawitsky’s dismissal of the Ovaherero claim as a ‘backward-looking minority demand,’ Katjiuongua said this was because the Ovaherero were black.

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