Ambivalence reigns supreme as Lammert returns to Germany

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Has he come, seen and conquered? Seen and conquered what – one might want to ask the President of the German Parliament, Dr Norbert Lammert, who just concluded a few days’ working visit to Namibia this week.
As much as the visit may have been significant in terms of bilateral relations between the two countries, for a section of the Namibian population, needless to say, the visit cannot be said to have been in any way eventful. On the contrary, it was an anticlimax.
Not that this was unexpected. In spite of Dr Lammert being one of Germany’s prominent figures, who has of late added his voice to the groundswell of opinion declaring that Imperial Germany’s atrocities in then German South West Africa was genocide, his actual being in Namibia has been strangely muted in this regard – if not diplomatic to say the least.
This is especially so, as far as the descendants of the victims of genocide are concerned. Many of these descendants would have expected Dr Lammert – in the letter and spirit of his recent celebrated pronouncements in Germany – to have reiterated such. But during his recent visit his chorus seems to be that “nobody is able to correct the past”, which in the circles of the reparation movement can be interpreted to mean that the past must be forgotten.
He may have been clear that from the past there are both bad and good lessons to learn, but Dr Lammert was equally clear that one cannot change the world by concentrating on the past, instead of changing the current reality. Once again, this seems in the least ambivalent, and at best, evasive of the real issue, genocide.
The descendants of the genocide survivors can find reassurance in the humanity, intellectual independence, sobriety, broadmindedness and humility that Dr Lammert seems to exude.
Having been in Namibia and having met a cross-section of the role players, as far as the issue of genocide and reparation is concerned, he is returning to Germany with new insights, especially with regard to the involvement of the descendants of the victims of genocide in whatever initiative the Namibian and German governments undertake.
Dr Lammert’s perspectives seemed conventional, or if you like, fashionable in the mould of bilateralism, showing little context of the genocide, neither knowledge and understanding of the legitimate demands and lamentations of the descendants of the victims.
Dr Lammert’s visit came in the very historic month of October. This is the month during which the Commander of Imperial Germany’s Schutztruppe, Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, issued the infamous Extermination Order against the Ovaherero on October 2, 1904.
Last week saw a series of commemorative activities by the descendants of the victims, during which they handed over a communique to the German Ambassador, Hans Matthias Schlaga. His response could not have been more predictable.
“Ambassador Schlaga recalled and underlined the agreement between the governments of Namibia and Germany to start a dialogue process with the objective to reach a common understanding of the tragic events of the colonial era, as well as the consequences to be drawn in order to establish a dignified culture of remembrance and commemoration,” reads a passage from a statement released by the German Embassy following the handover of the communique.
Dr Lammert’s visit came shortly after the annual commemoration of the Extermination Order against the Ovaherero at Ozombuzovindimba, but these events seem to have little meaning to him – if only to provide a better context to such bilateralism.
In this regard in Ozombuzovindimba the Ovaherero and Nama reportedly issued a declaration of their own, entitled “Declaration of Resistance.” By this they pledged to continue their campaign by any legitimate means necessary. This includes internationalising it through regional, continental and international fora, like the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN). Through this they hope and will bid for Germany to become a pariah state internationally.
They are also gearing up for some positive action against all German interests, wherever found. Last but not least, they are thinking of dragging Germany before an international tribunal to compel it to account for its historic and moral responsibility. What other recourse, in view of the apparent continued alienation from their own cause, do the descendants have?

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