Genocide Committee Lost Its Momentum?


Kae on Friday Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro There seems to be a general consensus among members of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee that somehow the momentum created by the centenary commemoration of the Ovaherero Genocide in 2004 is either at the risk of being lost, if it has not been lost already. By the Committee Chairperson’s own admission, the Committee has somehow stagnated. In my version the Committee’s progress has somehow been arrested. What went wrong? In a reflexive impression on the Ovaherero Genocide Committee (OGC), one can look at two phases. The one phase is what I would term the Commemoration Phase, and the other the Post-Commemoration Phase. The Commemoration Phase was relatively an easy affair in output, albeit not in input, considering what the Committee members and its supporters and sympathisers had to put in in terms of time, energy and own resources. Its easiness lay in the fact that it was linked to the commemoration of historic events. Thus problems encountered were for the greater part organisational in nature. This is besides the attendant problems of legitimacy, inclusiveness and representation. And of course financial. The mandate of the first phase, one would say, was also clear and straightforward, that is to commemorate events on their 100th anniversary.ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚  The first phase had come and gone with some successes if measured against the momentum it created on the reparations matter. However, the successes of the second seem a long way ahead. Part of the reasons are the triple problems of legitimacy, inclusiveness and representation the Committee has inherited from the Commemoration Phase, still hurting it to some extent, compounded by political and tribal rivalries within the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu communities. However, the most unpalatable truth is that the Committee has hitherto not been able to build on the momentum and successes of the first phase. There may be many reasons, but coming immediately to mind is that the mandate and goal of this phase are not straightforward and tangible unlike in the Commemoration Phase where the main goal was to ensure, come a specific date, the one or the other event was observed. The organisation of such commemorations was an independent act that did not depend on the progress of either the broader reparations campaign at a specific point in time, or the reparations court case that has as yet to run its course. On the contrary, because of the supportive nature of its mandate in the Post-Commemoration Phase, much of the Committee’s activities depend on the pace of the key players in the reparations movement and their main proponents, namely Chief Kuaima Riruako and company In fact, from a distant observation Chief Riruako, backed-pushed by the Committee some of the times, seems to be the only one seriously championing the process albeit at what seems a snail’s pace. However, to what extent the matter enjoys his full and undivided attention remains unclear and only known better to those very close to him and the reparations movement. Neither is it clear to what extent he has the necessary support and backing from his aides, let alone the Ovaherero leadership, whatever the Ovaherero leadership may mean in this time and age given its passiveness, heterogeneity and divergence. In fact, at this juncture the reparations campaign seems from a cursory appraisal not to have the necessary sustained and consistent leadership and is only playing second fiddle to the Ovaherero leadership’s other duties, political and otherwise – more often than not a convenient political ballgame between the various political, tribal and intellectual shades all with own hidden divergent agendas driven mostly by a quest for political correctness and economic welfare. Even the Ovaherero Traditional Authority does not seem to have a permanent secretariat that could have been occupied with this matter full time, helping the Chief in the process. To what extent the Ovaherero leadership is in the thick of this matter is also dubious. Furthermore, the Committee does not seem to have its own autonomous programmes meant to project its supportive role in the reparations campaign. The only independent proactive action by the Committee one can recall in the Post-Commemoration Phase is the 2005 march to Parliament and the handing over of a petition against the acceptance of Germany as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to the Prime Minister. The other issue worth mentioning in this phase is the visit of Dr Freddy Kustaa and the lecture he had at the Polytechnic of Namibia. Except for these two events, the Committee seems to lack proactive programmes of its own, relying on guest appearances at one or the other event with little impact in terms of enhancing the reparations campaign. If of any value at all such appearances have been of public relations effect. However, any public relations exercise can be of any use if it feeds on tangible achievements. Pardon me, but I am not aware of any achievements of note by the Committee in the Post-Commemoration Phase. In fact, the Committee seems somehow to be engaged in some terminal internal organisation or re-organisation of some sort that does not seem to have any end, thereby impacting negatively against any plan of action intended to buttress the reparations campaign as per its late mandate. As long as this situation prevails, I see the Committee as nothing more than a shadow of its former self. Somehow, the Committee does not seem to have successfully managed its transition from its previous mandate to its current one. It seems most of the time to be riding on its previous achievements than doing something that can justify its existence in terms of its renewed and revamped mandate to date. In view of this, I can only see the Committee assuming a meaningful and constructive role if it casts away the shadow of its former self, draft an action plan and in fact assume the active driving position of the reparations movement. The Ovaherero in general, and their leadership in particular as amoeboid as it is currently, leave much to be desired and I cannot see things moving at all in this regard unless the Committee steps in, not only to set the pace of the campaign but also in concretising its agenda, albeit in close consultations with the powers that be within the Ovambanderu and Ovaherero communities. One thing that the Committee needs to address itself seriously to is the implementation of its actions, most of which do not seem to be followed up, and in the process disappears in thin air. One calls to mind in this regard the Ozombu Zovindimba Declaration, the Petition to the UN against Germany’s being a permanent member on the UN Security Council, and the million-person web petition initiated by the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu in the American Diaspora. All these are good pro-active campaigns if the Committee can only give them the necessary push. But most importantly, in the words of one son of the soil, the reparations issue needs de-tribalising and depoliticising, and the Committee, amongst others, needs “the requisite capacity, “legal and academic/intellectual” to assume a character of its own. With hindsight one must laud the tabling of the motion on genocide by Chief Riruako in Parliament this week. However, its impact remains as yet unpredictable and unwritten.