Leaders of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu communities yesterday ignored the legal advice of a London-based law firm to form one single group in pursuit of reparations over the 1904 genocide.
Lawyers at Doughty Street Chambers in London last week advised the three groups, composed of the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu Council for Dialogue on the 1904 Genocide, the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu and the Nama Genocide Committee to form one group.
The groups were also advised to issue a joint press statement upon their arrival in Europe last week.
The factions went to England to consult a team of reputable international lawyers in preparation for possible legal action against Germany should the German government not respond positively to their demand for reparation.
The delegation to London consisted of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation, led by Paramount Chief Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, as well as the Nama Technical Committee on Genocide, led by Daniel Fredericks.
The former consisted of nine members of the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu Council for Dialogue, headed by Chief Tjinaani Maharero of the Maharero Royal House.
Divisions between the representatives of affected communities re-surfaced strongly yesterday when the two groups opted to hold separate press conferences.
The Ovaherero-Ovambanderu and Nama Genocide Committee, headed by Adv. Rukoro held its press conference at Commando Number 2 in Katutura.
Mbakumua Hengari, who spoke on behalf of the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu and the Nama Genocide Committee told the media that the reason they were holding separate meetings with the press was not immediately relevant and that an investigation would be carried out to determine why this was the case.
Briefing the media yesterday at UN Plaza in Katutura on its activities in London, the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu Council for Dialogue’s spokesperson, Manfred Jatamunua, said: “We agreed in London to have a joint press conference. However, this did not materialise… probably due to miscommunication.”
The group had requested a neutral venue, since there are differences within the affected communities, but no consensus could be reached: “We cannot attend a press conference at the Ovaherero Commando. Some of us are not even allowed in there,” he said.
Last week, a coalition of non-governmental and civic organisations handed a petition to German President Joachim Gauck in Berlin.
The petition was signed by over 2,000 German nationals, including eminent persons from across the political, cultural and academic spectrum. They called on the Federal German government to recognise the tragic events of 1904-1908 as genocide and to apologise to the affected communities.
They were joined by a delegation from Namibia, including Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro, Chairperson of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation, Utjiua Muinjangue, Chairperson of the Nama Technical Committee David Frederics on Genocide and Swapo Party MP, Ida Hoffmann.
The campaign of extermination and collective punishment that the Kaizer’s army waged against the Ovaherero and Nama between 1904 and 1908 in the then German South West Africa, modern-day Namibia, is widely regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century.
Speaker of the German Parliament, Norbert Lammert published a statement last week, saying that “measured by today’s standards of international law, the putting down of the Herero uprising was genocide,” prompting widespread speculation that the German government is now poised to acknowledge the campaign of extermination against the OvaHerero and Nama people as a war crime and genocide.