It’s time to clarify genocide and reparation plans

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Last week saw what is likely the latest episode in the never-ending genocide and reparations drama when Namibian Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany Andreas Guibeb became the latest actor in the soap opera.

In an apparent bid to give the genocide and reparation debate a new twist and impetus Guibeb tried to influence political parties in the Bundestag, especially the ones who have sanctioned a motion on this matter, Die Linke (the Left Party), and Die Grüne (the Greens) to withdraw their motion tabled last year, which was eventually debated last Thursday.

With the motion, titled “Reconciliation with Namibia – remembrance of and apology for the genocide in the former colony of German South West Africa”, a group of German parliamentarians sought, inter alia, that the Bundestag “remembers the atrocities perpetrated by colonial troops of the German Empire in the former colony of German South West Africa and commemorates the victims of massacres, expulsions, expropriation, forced labour, rape, medical experiments, deportations and inhuman confinement in concentration camps”.

Further, they asked the German parliament to call on its government to “fully assume the political and moral responsibilities and obligations that arise as a result of German culpability for the genocide”.

Cognizant of the 2006 resolution of the Namibian National Assembly, the parliamentarians in their motions further sought that the Bundestag supports the demand “for a comprehensive, targeted and structured dialogue without preconditions, i.e. without eliminating the issue of restorative justice as an important part of the reconciliation process.”

It is understood that Namibia’s ambassador requested that this very motion be withdrawn. The first question regarding the motivation and intent of Ambassador Guibeb aside, as well as the merits and demerits of his aborted bid, is on what authority and mandate he undertook the move.

As an ambassador, he obviously operates and should be acting on the brief of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation – not to mention within the confines of this ministry and the confines, dictates, and the decorum of diplomacy.

It would be instructive to know if there was ever such a brief from the said ministry. Needless to say, whether one wants it or not, the issue has been and shall continue to be transacted and advocated within the rubric of the affected Namibian communities and their leaders, the traditional leaders.

Whether Ambassador Guibeb, would like to admit it or not, these traditional leaders are the legitimate voice when it comes to the issue of genocide and reparation, whether directly or through the legitimately elected government.

How this can be achieved is a matter the two parties should duly consult each other about. But the traditional leaders are the ones who have got legal standing, if you like, in this matter; not in their own personal and individual rights and capacities, but as leaders of the affected communities in whom locus standi duly resides, severally and jointly.

The voices of these leaders have been loud and clear, even lately as far as the motion in question by the German parliamentarians in the Bundestag is concerned. They have been categorical and firm in support of the motion in question, even going publicly on record with their support for this motion.

Strangely, our ambassador in Germany seems ominously oblivious to the stance of the people and their leaders, whom he is also meant to represent while in Germany, and everywhere he may be moving as a Namibian ambassador.

As a Namibian diplomatic envoy in Germany he is consequently also an envoy of the affected Namibian communities, and their legitimate claim for reparation.

As much as one would wish to know to what extent his bold attempted intervention may have been informed by consultations with those directly affected, because right in the backyard of his current sojourn in Germany are some direct descendants of the victims of genocide, and their friends who have for years now been seized with the matter.

Lately there has been some optimism that things may eventually start to move in the right, well-meaning and genuine direction. Part of the reason for such optimism and high expectations were signals towards the end of last year by eminent officials of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany to the effect that the excesses by Imperial Germany, and its armed forces then, were indeed genocide.

These were also followed towards the close of last year by the appointment by the two respective governments of special envoys on genocide. News has also reached us this year about the appointment by the Namibian government of various committees to deal with the genocide and reparation issue.

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