Namas Want Germans to Return Chief’s Head


By Frederick Philander LUDERITZ Some 500 people on Friday braved a strong 50-km/h ocean wind and scorching sun to attend a religious 100th anniversary commemoration of the death of one of the most illustrious leaders of the country. The setting of the scene was the infamous Shark Island on which a reported 6 000 indigenous men, women and children brutally lost their lives in horrific concentration camps at the hands of their German captors during the 1904-08 war. A celebratory spirit remained positively high among the predominantly female audience during the opening day of the historic anniversary of the death of Chief Cornelius Frederick, who was beheaded by German occupiers. “Where is the head of my forefather? Who will give us the answer? In view of these unanswered questions, I want the head back of my grandfather to be reunited with his body in death. In this, I appeal to the German government to have the head returned to Namibia at the earliest convenience. We have unfinished business here. Only when the head has been returned and reunited with the rest of the body, we will find peace,” insisted Dawid Frederick, the present Chief of a Nama clan, in a strong and emotional speech on Friday. Chief Frederick passionately declared battle for the restoration of the dignity of the Nama people, their self-worth and claim for what was rightfully theirs. “We have suffered at the hands of the German imperialist forces. Our people were victims of a massacre on Shark Island, but that sad part of our history has become a tale that has vanished from the history books, from which our children aught to know what happened to their forefathers,” the Chief said. According to Chief Frederick, the Herero people are today demanding compensation from the German government for damages caused during the genocide of 1904. “The Nama of the South, on the other hand, have been quiet for so long on this subject, but the time has come that we also make our voices heard. We are calling upon the German government to come clean on the massacre on Shark Island where thousands of our people died, atrocities historically known to everyone. The Namibian government needs to come to the aid of the Nama people so that the legacy of poverty, land deprivation and property confiscation be addressed and redressed,” appealed Chief Frederick, who indicated that only prompt action on reparations will be able to lift the Nama people out of despair. Chief Frederick insisted the Nama people enjoy the fruits of the country as part of the nation. “The bones of the ./ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚man people are scattered across the desert plains in the LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz area. The diamond fields have discovered many mass graves, and skeletons have been uncovered, yet we cannot lay claim to what is rightfully ours. We are plagued by unemployment, diseases and many of our youth cannot get scholarships to go for further studies,” the Chief claimed. “About 100 years ago, this place, Shark Island, was a weeping place of many Namibians. Many tears and emotional pain were experienced by those who died here and whose flesh was fed to sharks. Today, we can write this part of our country’s history as free men and women,” said the mayor of the town, Emilia Amupewa, in welcoming the hundreds of visitors to the solemn ceremony. She informed the audience that the remains of the bones lying all over the desert in the surroundings around the town were another mystery in the sad history of the country. “This history has more than two generations of slavery and human atrocities at its worst in the world’s history of prisoners of war. We are now dealing with the mindset that needs to embrace and accept political freedom and emancipation after decades of exploitation and dehumanization,” said Amupewa, who announced that a new neighbourhood in the town will soon be named after the late Chief Cornelius Frederick. According to the mayor’s revealing historical overview of the events on Shark Island, beatings and brutal maltreatment were part of the daily lives of the prisoners. “Eighty percent of the people incarcerated on Shark Island just vanished, but one day someone will reveal to the Namibian nation what really happened to them because these atrocities did no go unnoticed, especially by the German government, who wrote reports, articles and letters about the inhuman treatment,” the mayor said hopefully. In a more conciliatory tone, the mayor urged the present German and Namibian governments to find a platform for positive dialogue on how the two nations can reconcile so that those who died can be buried in a dignified manner. “The remains of the victims of war in mass graves need to be buried in a proper fashion. Apologies need to be extended to the Namibian people, who should accept such apologies. Then we should truly forgive the Germans for their past and it must be followed by true reconciliation,” Amupewa suggested.