Namibian special envoy on genocide and reparation, Dr Zed Ngavirue, says integrated national efforts are required in order to benefit from the genocide and reparation negotiations with the Germans.
In an interview with New Era last week, Ngavirue said negotiations at any level are not always easy – “therefore it is very important that as a nation we talk with one voice”. President Hage Geingob last year appointed Ngavirue as special envoy to lead deliberations on genocide and reparation with the German government. “Let us put all our differences aside and let’s focus on the issue at hand,” Ngavirue said.
He said already the willingness by the German government to come to the table to settle the issue gives the nation to a certain degree optimism that at least the Germans are now giving the nation a proper hearing. He said the most important thing that Namibia as a nation should concentrate on is to ensure that if the Germans acknowledge genocide they are prepared to give an apology, which seems to be the case.
“What is very important now is to know how are the Germans going to meet us on the issue of reparation,” he said.
“We all know that reparation means for instance restitution, restoration – and the Namibian constitution has intense clauses that the land we lost cannot be reclaimed and therefore there cannot be restitution, and if that cannot be the case what will be the best kind of substitute of something that can be meaningful to our people for that that has been destroyed,” he said.
He personally believes that with one voice “as a nation we can get something meaningful out of the negotiations”. “Let’s stop our own minor little quarrels about who is going to speak and let’s focus on the real issue,” he stressed.
For over a decade, the OvaHerero, Ovambanderu and Nama people have sought reparation from Germany for the official policy of extermination enforced by the German colonial government in then German South West Africa between 1904 and 1908.
In 2001, the affected communities filed a US$4 billion lawsuit against the German government and two German firms in the United States of America, but Germany dismissed the claim, saying international rules on the protection of combatants and civilians were not in existence at the time of the conflict. The then commander of the German Imperial Forces, General Lothar von Trotha, had issued the infamous ‘extermination orders’ against the OvaHerero and Nama in 1904, leading to the deaths of between 65 000 and 80 000 OvaHerero and Nama people, many of whom were either killed in subsequent battles or died of thirst and starvation as they were driven into the arid Omaheke desert.