“The German government should realise that Namibians through their legitimate government have the right to decide for themselves. It is therefore, crucially important that the German government come to terms with reality and stop underestimating the collective intelligence of the African people in general and the Namibians in particular,” said the late Ovaherero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako in 2006.
One is compelled to reproduce this quote to underline the thinking and correct – and dispel – the general misperception, especially among senior members of the Namibian government, that the descendants of the victims of German genocide against Namibians, who have been seized with the issue of genocide and reparation, do not want to have anything to do with their government and want to go it alone in negotiating with the German government.
One is also compelled to revisit this vexed question of the role of the Namibian government in the demand for reparation, and that of the descendants of the victims, as well that of the various genocide committees in view of the recent meeting between the President of the Republic of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob, and the genocide committees.
The outcome and content of this meeting last Friday, which seems to have been behind closed doors, is still to become public. But initial accounts of what transpired point to another opportunity that may have been lost, unless these committees come forth to clarify and correct the misperceptions regarding their apprehensions and/or misgivings about their government’s involvement in the matter. The disposition of the descendants and committees may and could not aptly have been underlined by the quote of the late Dr Riruako above.
In fact, the descendants and the committees may have been well aware of the apparent if not perceived dissonance and disconnect between them and their government on this matter. This is especially following their presumed and perceived rebuttal and rejection of Dr Geingob, who was once delegated by the former president Hifikepunye Pohamba to lead the process. Since, understandably, the committees have been looking for an audience with officialdom, starting with Dr Geingob, who was then the prime minister. Until recently their clamouring for such an audience appears to have been eventually a godsend with Dr Geingob agreeing to see them last Friday.
It was an occasion that he also used to officially introduce the Namibian government’s special envoy on genocide Ambassador Zed Ngavirue to the committees.
It is only natural that the question of genocide and reparation started to gain momentum after its centenary commemorations in 2004. Because most importantly Namibia was free and sovereign albeit only for 12 years in 2004.
Many a time it seems the reparation movement has not only been misunderstood but also misinterpreted, miscomprehended and misrepresented, sometimes deliberately and maliciously so, as far as their disposition towards their government on the matter of genocide, and their demand for reparation, has been concerned.
Misinterpreted in the sense that it does not desire their government’s involvement in this matter. Nothing could have been far from the truth than this. Because if there has been any blessing in terms of advancing and enhancing the cause of reparation, it is Namibian freedom and independence, and the attendant sovereign government.
The corollary and axiom of the sovereignty of Namibia and her government has been that it would fully embrace the cause of her citizens and peoples for reparation. But eleven years after the centenary commemorations of genocide, an event which set the necessary momentum to the attendant demand for reparation, one has yet to see the Namibian government and the descendants and the committees effectively on the same wavelength and working purposefully together towards the desired end. If one has to reflect objectively and honestly on all these years, at least since 2004, officialdom seems to have been less consequent on this matter. Partly due to the misperception created, or manufactured, that the government is not welcome. A view that appeared to have been once again apparent at the opportune meeting last Friday. An impression that the delegations of the affected communities, it appears, seemed to have done little to let it evaporate and dissipate. And which the government on its part, seemed not to have gone an extra mile given the opportunity that presented itself, to gain more insight, if not understanding in this perceived stance of the descendants and genocide committees. One gathers the delegations were presented with what may and could be understood as an ultimatum, either to allow the government the necessary space to negotiate with its counterpart, or for descendants and the committees to walk alone without the government?
Neither position can really be effective and justifiably tenable. There is no way that the Namibian government as a custodian of the interests and aspirations of every of its citizens, can be an idle and passive onlooker in the matter of genocide and reparation. In fact, it has as much responsibility towards its citizens as the government of Germany is equally historically responsible towards the descendants of the victims.