The following is a speech presented by Namibian Ambassador to Germany, Professor Peter Katjavivi to, to the Annual General Meeting of the German-Namibian Society held at Bayreuth, Germany, October 26-28, 2007.
The speech is of special interest because it coincides with a visit to Germany
this week by an 11-member Namibian delegation led by Director-General of the National Planning Commission, Helmuth Angula.
The delegation is in Germany to finalise details of the long-delayed
Namibia-Germany Special Initiative and may conceivably lead to the
actual signing of the agreement.
The Namibia-Germany Special Initiative aims to provide special
German development assistance to communities directly affected by
atrocities carried out by German troops during the 1904-8 War.
In view of the many events that took place since I last spoke to you on October 28, 2006, at your Annual General Meeting in Hermannsburg, dealing specifically with the relations between our two countries, I thought it appropriate to share with you some reflections on the “German Special Initiative for Namibia” in the context of the call for reparations. As you all know, this is not only a topical subject but it is also a burning matter that challenges the governments and people of both our countries.
Some friends might wonder why I have chosen to focus on this subject. Such sentiments are understandable. However, having listened to many discussions and read many articles over the past couple of months, I have come to realise that there is a great need for some clarity regarding this matter. I must confess, it is not common in diplomatic circles to address a topic like this head-on. There is always concern about not wanting to offend anyone in the process. I too share those concerns. However, my purpose in choosing to speak on this particular aspect of our relationship today is to offer constructive reflections in order to help us find the way forward.
From the outset it should be clear that the subject matter is not only sensitive to many ears, both in Namibia and Germany, but it is also at the centre of unresolved issues within the Namibian/German relations.
We are all aware of the call made by Namibian communities to the German authorities for reparations for the atrocities committed by the German colonial troops in Namibia during the 1904-08 War. However sensitive this discussion might be, we cannot ignore it. We need to come to terms with the past so that it does not conquer us. As the Bible says, the truth will set us free.
I am sure that you all remember when on 14 August 2004, the Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Ms Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, made her famous speech during the centenary commemoration of the 1904 Ohamakari battle near Okakarara in Namibia during the war between Germany and the Namibian Herero, Nama, Damara and San communities.
The Minister talked openly about what had happened in the past, and what had been done in the name of Germany. She stated, “The atrocities committed at the time would today constitute genocide”. Then she went on to say that “all what I have said has been an apology on the side of the German Government.”
Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, who was the Prime Minister of Namibia at the time, later pointed out that “those words reverberated across the entire country, and our people said ‘Yes, at long last’.”
Against that background, in May 2005, Minister Wieczorek-Zeul, together with the Namibian Bishop Zephania Kameeta, received a special award for reconciliation from the Lutheran Church of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) in D???_?_’???_?’???_?