Genocide Issue Cuts across Allegiances


Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro I know today is Friday the 13th. However, the ancestors I am sure have cast away whatever omens it may hold. Lately, they must have been wide-awake in their graves listening to what has been happening in the august House on the Ovaherero genocide! Pardon me for the slip of the tongue. The genocide of the Namibian people that has been, should one say, having a field day in the august House? The deliveries so far on the matter have been five star, spot on and to the point of hitting the nail on the head as the saying goes. This of course is not without some omens and understandably so. Divergence and nonconformity is not a strange phenomenon to the genocide issue. And no amount of motions could dose it with any pretence at unanimity, especially among the Ovaherero. Political sour grapes and the age-old political/tribal rivalries among this group, the initiator of the genocide/reparation crusade claiming ownership thereof, is at the root of the division. The differences underlying this divergence are not anything fundamental or principled, as deep-rooted as they are. At the root of it is the politics of the stomachs. Thus, as long as the selfish stomachs and avarice of the various proponents and spirant champions dictate, there is no way we can wish away the differences and parallel claims and pretences at championing the issue. Pubic showmanship at trying to convince the public otherwise is just what it is, a mere show, empty talk and a face-saving exercise. But back to what has been transpiring in the august House, taking the floor first on the matter after its motivation by its prime mover was the Swapo Member of Parliament, Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange. I am sure by now everybody is aware of the prime mover of the motion. However, I am sensitive to name names lest I stir a political/tribal hornet’s nest given the battle for ownership of the issue. In fact, I understand this is already proving a political ball game, especially among the ruling party that is split on their perception of the forthrightness of the motion. To that in a while. Although seemingly hesitant on expressing himself on reparations, or perhaps abdicating this to the official government spokespeople, given that the Government already has a position on reparations, albeit somehow subdued and muted at this stage, Dr Tjiriange nevertheless threw down the gauntlet. Granted that the matter was given the necessary sensitivity in debating it, he thought there was no way the august House could be silent on the matter that should be seen as above any political persuasion. Neither was he in doubt about the legitimacy of the charge of genocide against Germany. He was thus for the motion. Next in line was, strangely, yet another protÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚©gÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© of the leading affected cultural group with other members cautiously silent. Katuurire Kaura produced a rendition of the genocidal atrocities and update-cum-public relations exercise on the efforts hitherto of his polar on the continuum. He espoused his alignment’s readiness to enter into dialogue and dismissed the unilateral Special Initiative by the German government as “a nice gesture but not enough to deviate them from the important point of getting into serious dialogue”. Did he support the motion or not? The CoD President’s contribution may go down as one of the most constructive contribution to the motion until then, calling in particular for the nationalisation/Namibianisation of the issue, an end to unilateral actions from both protagonists/antagonists to the issue and one national body to deal with the matter. He was for the motion. Also throwing his weight behind the motion, UDF Leader and Chief of the ?Nukhoen or Damara people, Justus GaroÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚«b, appealed that “differences and affiliations must be inferior to the noble goal”. As much as Riruako was legally right that only the Ovaherero were singled out for extermination, GaroÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚«b cautioned Riruako lest he is misled by this view pointing out that the Damara also fought on the part of Ovaherero. Particularly, he felt strongly that while the history of the ?Nukhoen remained under-researched, unwritten and untold, seeking reparations might not do justice to his people. This week CoD Vice-President, Nora Schimming-Chase concretely suggested that Parliament resolves to mandate the Namibian Government to lead the campaign on the issue, and if dialogue does not succeed, to institute a case in the International Court of Justice. Also that Parliament resolves to ask the German Parliament to officially accept responsibility on genocide and to accept to pay reparations. The Prime Minister seemed also cautious in his approach lest he commits the Government, believing instead that “restorative justice has a chance to succeed than anything else”. Is this anything else perhaps reparations? Restorative justice entails a scholarship programme for the descendants of the Ovaherero and Namas in the Diaspora, among others. In a nutshell, that has been the highs and lows of the debate hitherto on the motion on genocide/reparations. Is there a cause for optimism? Yes and No. Yes, in the sense that so far the debate has been sober and businesslike with most of those who have spoken so far in favour of it. However, one should add that, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The eating, in this case, is not so much what has been said and the avowed support. On the contrary, it lies in how the final motion is formulated and sounds if it ever reaches that stage at all. I am saying if it ever reaches that stage in the knowledge that the bulk of the members of the House have not spoken as yet. Their silence so far is at worst ominous and at best the worst cue which way the motion may move next. In fact, vibes have it that the ruling party is vacillating on the issue. Some members, who should be more sympathetic to the motion, are even said to have been edging on having it rejected in toto. The reason is the perceived political capital its master minder and his political party, Nudo, may garner from it. True, one cannot totally dismiss the perception that behind the motion there may be a political mint. Its mover may be a political animal of some sort but I am inclined to think he has tabled this motion more as a champion of his people’s cause. That this happened to be through Nudo is a necessary evil. Any other member of whatever political ticket could have tabled the motion and still it could have been a necessary evil. I believe many other people out there to whom this matters, in particular the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu, see this motion in that light. The genocide issue, I am sure, is an issue that transcends political divides. Thus, opposing the motion because of the perceived political gain for its mover is political myopia and novice of the highest order. Any member of the august House who harbours such a view does not belong in this House. I for one shall support the motion but there is no way it can move my rock solid political allegiance, affinity or persuasion. If in the august House there are members whose persuasions are so fragile to collapse at the slightest show of support for a cause as important as this, my doubts as to the integrity, wisdom and judgement of some of these members is more than accentuated. I dread to think any member can assume that our people out there, the very same people responsible for his/her being in this House today, cannot make that judgment when they need to. Trust me, unlike some of these members would like us to think, the people out there can make their own judgement whether this issue is above party politics or not. The doubting Kaezembuas should know that they are not merely in Parliament representing only a particular political persuasion. Their mandate as members of Parliament is broader than that. Not only that but the issue of reparations is more than a party political matter of equal if not vital interest to many people out there excusing political affiliations or leanings. Thus, opposing the motion is not only cutting their noses but spiting their faces as well. If anybody should be playing us into the hands of Nudo, it’s none other than our doubting Kaezembuas.