Riruako Steps Up Reparations Demand


By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The Herero Paramount Chief and Nudo President, Kuaima Riruako, yesterday called on the National Assembly to support the demand for reparations from the German Government and private companies which benefited from the demise of the Namibian people. Addressing the august house, Riruako said reparations should be supported as it seeks to identify and redress wrongdoings so that the country and people who suffered would enjoy full freedom to continue their own development on more equal terms. Riruako, who is spearheading the Herero reparations case, informed his fellow lawmakers that the Ovaherero people have launched a legal challenge in the courts of the United States, demanding and claiming reparations from the German Government for the atrocities and genocide committed against their forefathers and mothers. He explained that the demand for reparations is based on the expropriation of vast tracts of land owned and occupied communally by their ancestors. “Our demand is based on the illegal expropriation without compensation of land and tens of thousands of cattle belonging to our people.” Addressing a packed parliamentary gallery, he said that the basis for reparations is also the premeditated extermination of close to 80% of the Ovaherero, 66% killings of the Nama people, and the international destruction of the culture, traditions, social organization and the indigenous government structure of the Ovaherero people. The Chief also took a swipe at the German Government and said that his people rejected the poor attempt by the Germans to hide behind discredited legalistic arguments as a basis for denying the reparations demand of the Ovaherero, whilst at the same time seeking to justify its payment of reparations to the Jews for similar crimes committed by the Hitler regime. “Such an attitude on the part of the German Government is nothing but a naked act of racism against black people in general and the Ovaherero in particular.” Riruako added that the demand for reparations is neither isolated nor unreasonable and highlighted a number of payouts, including N$25 million paid by Austria to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. “In 1990 the US paid $1,2 billion or $20 000 to each Japanese American and in 1985 (the sum of) $105 million to the Sioux of South Dakota.” The Chief said that the Ovaherero demand for reparations is thus in line with international demands, therefore it needs the collective and patriotic support of the nation. Concluding the motion, Riruako quoted from a witness account of a German soldier who pursued the Ovaherero through the Sandveld (Omaheke) to Botswana, “Through the quiet night we heard, in the distance, the lowing of enormous herds of thirsty cattle, and a dull confused sound like the movement of a whole people to the east there was a … glow of fire, and enemy had fled to the east with their whole enormous mass of women, children and herds. The next morning we ventured to pursue the enemy. The ground was trodden on into a floor for a width of about 100 yards, for in such a broad thick horde had the enemy and their cattle stormed along. In the path of their flight lay blackest skins and ostrich feathers, household utensils, and women’s ornaments, cattle and men dead and dying and staring blankly. A number of babies lay helplessly languishing by mothers whose breasts hung down long and flabby, others were laying alone, still living with eyes and nose full of flies. Somebody sent out black driver and I think they helped them to die. All this life lay scattered there, both men and beast, broken in the knees, helpless, still in agony, or already motionless. At noon we halted by water holes which were filled to the brim with corpses.” Soon after Riruako concluded his motion, the Deputy Prime Minister Dr Libertina Amathila informed the house that the topic is a sensitive one and should be approached with care. Swapo Chief Whip Ben Amathila adjourned the debate to next week Thursday. Scores of Ovaherero dressed in traditional attire flocked yesterday to parliament to listen to the motion.