Genocide Descendants Gather at Von Trotha’s Heap

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By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro OZOMBU ZOVINDIMBA Hundreds of descendants of the direct victims of the 1904 Extermination Order against the Ovaherero by the then commander of Imperial Germany’s army, General Lothar von Trotha, gathered here on Saturday to reaffirm their commitment to their struggle for reparations. During the centenary commemoration of the order in 2004, the Ovaherero – lest the blood of their forbearers shed and the lives they sacrificed in the wars of resistance as a result of the Extermination Order by Von Trotha were in vain – declared not to rest until justice is done one day. The declaration at the very same place that served as an observation post for the German Imperial Army and where Von Trotha announced the Extermination Order on the 2nd of October 1904, was read to thousands of people who gathered here two years ago on 30 October. They then went on to sign it. “We shall continue to hold Germany fully responsible for the genocide committed against our people. That we shall pursue our justified demand for reparations against successive German governments until they accede to our demand for just compensation. To carry on the struggle for reparations for as long as it takes and if need be, pass the struggle on to future generations of the Ovaherero for decades to come until justice is done,” the declaration reads partially. On Saturday, the Ovaherero returned here to the uninhabited area about 20 km north-east of the village-cum-town of Otjinene in the Omaheke Region to revisit the declaration. The message was clear. The Ovaherero shall not let go of their demand for reparations. It was also clear that Herero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako is not alone in this struggle. As early as 06h00 in the morning, as one person proudly attired in their traditional green, red and white, with a strong contingent both on horseback and on foot, they took positions on the Otjinene-Otjikorondu road awaiting their Comander-in-Chief, Riruako, and his entourage, like true warriors preparing for battle. The arrival of the Chief heralded an electric atmposphere of battle cries and the traditional skirting of the shrine by the chief and his enrourage, followed by a ceremony at the shrine during which the chief and the traditional priests engaged the ancestors spiritually. The crowd then moved on to an unmarked grave where the Chief, Ngarikutuke Tjiriange and traditional priest, Tjipene Keja, laid a wreath. Thereafter, the crowd proceeded to the observation post, a sand heap where Von Trotha read his infamous Extermination Order. Speaking from the heap, still there 102 years later, albeit not really its former self, Riurako flanked on the right by Tjiriange explained to the crowd circling the foot of the heap the history of the place and Von Trotha’s order. He said it was on the basis of the very Extermination Order by Von Trotha against the Ovaherero that he instituted legal proceedings against the German government and German companies in Washington. The same order also serves as the basis for a second legal case Riruako intends to institute against Germany and accomplices in the court in Berlin, the German capital, either in January or February 2007. Riruako cautioned that Ozombu Zovindimba is a place of the infamous Extermination Order and the resultant massacre of the Ovaherero through poisoning of the waterholes, hence the name is one of sadness. Therefore, it must all the time be seen in this context and not as a playground. He pleaded to the Almighty not to judge him on his utterances but to rather pay due regard to his lamentations, give them patience and above all the strength to endure. He appealed to his people to be vigilant and to ask for assistance personally as direct victims. Turning to Tjiriange, he wanted to know what the Government would do to keep and preserve the history of the place. Tjiriange said everywhere one moves in the area, one is stepping on the remains of people. These are not people who lost their way somehow but people who were killed over what was theirs. In the face of the onslaught against them to disappropriate them, they did not let go of what belonged to them but rather chose to die fighting. Hence they fought to near extinction. He said the younger generation does not know what happened. All they know is aout having a nice time, not aware how it came about that they are able to have jolly good times today. Through the Almighty, Tjiriange said, there is today “a ministry that will look into matters like this”. He said one of the things he would do in his ministry is to establish a department that would research history and to write it, lest it perishes with the older generation. Tjiriange said Ozombu Zovindimba is not the only history that needs researching. There are many others, like a tree known as Ngauzepo in Otjinene, used for hanging people. This tree, if nothing is done, may in a few years be no more. He also cited the wagon of Kapiringi that is rusted somewhere in the Omaheke sandveld where it has become the haven of jackals. He said all these are matters that will enjoy his attention – in the case of Ozombu Zovindimba, not as a place where Von Trotha portrayed his good stature but as a place where he announced the Extermination Order. He referred to the makeshift graves here only marked with white little stones and said all they must be attended to. He said he was not referring to specific monuments because there are many of them. All these must be investigated by the department to be created, to ensure the permanency of history. He said Ozombu Zovindimba must be respected not for its natural beauty but as a place “where we cry”, and future generations must know that the cause of the tears is the genocide and the origin of the order. These monuments to Namibian history should not be erected only here but all over Namibia. Neither is he referring to the history of the Ovaherero only but also to the history of Witbooi who does not have a grave to date as heroic as he was. In the north there is Ipumbu and the historic tree under which he died. That tree is today there and one day it would fall victim to the chopper’s axe. “We must look at all these things and establish monuments so that everywhere we go we remember that our land was taken away with blood and was returned with blood.” Various speeches followed. The day wound up with each laying a stone at the shrine to start the foundation for the erection of a moument. This place being sandy, people were requested to bring stones along. The Otjinene Farmers Association donated N$10 000 towards the erection of the monument. Those who had not signed the Ozombu Zovindimba declaration were offered an opportunity. Member of Parliament Henk Mudge and ex-Robben Island detainee, Hitjevi Veii, were among prominent people who attended the event. On Sunday close to 100 people were reported to have gathered for a church service at the tree in Otjinene where some Ovaherero were hanged between 1904 and 1908.