By Charles Tjatindi
The annual white flag day will be commemorated at Omaruru this weekend, where traditional leaders of the ovaherero and other members of the public are expected to converge to pay homage to their fallen heroes.
This year’s 81st commemorations will for the first time feature the presence of some distant relatives of the then German war commander in Namibia, General Lothar Von Trotha. The group of 11 travelled from their native Germany to attend the event and to have first-hand experience on oral and recorded history of what transpired between the ovaherero and German forces during General Von Trotha’s rule.
General Von Trotha issued the extermination order to shoot and kill all Ovaherero people.
The Ovaherero from Omaruru have been convening at the town under the banner of the white Flag since 1926, when the body of Barnas Zeraua was brought to Omaruru for burial. The remains of other Chiefs and leaders of the time – most of whom died in combat – were also brought to Omaruru for reburial, among them Chief Manase Tjiseseta. Most recently, the remains of Michael Tjiseseta were brought to Omaruru from South Africa.
As usual, chiefs representing the various royal houses of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu communities will be in attendance. Other guests that will also be in attendance, according to Rudolf Hongoze, a member of the organising committee, will be members of the national assembly and special invited members of the Diplomatic corps.
Omaruru bears rich evidence in the history of the ovaherero uprising against German colonial rule. In the 1880s, Omaruru was repeatedly attacked in Herero-Nama wars before peace was secured in 1889. The German garrison was stationed there in 1894, leading to the gradual growth of the town.
By the end of 1896, Omaruru had the largest population of European settlers in Namibia. The town was besieged in 1904 during the ovaherero uprising, prompting the German Military Commander at the time, Captain Franke who was away in the south fighting the Bondelswart, to travel 900 km in 20 days to Omaruru. Once there, he broke down the siege by leading a cavalry charge and defeating the ovaherero. Franke’s tower was built at the town in 1907 to commemorate the attack.