“That a dialogue be convened between, on the one hand, the German Government and on the other hand, the Namibian Government and representatives of the affected parties to try and resolve this matter amicably and thereby strengthening and solidifying the existing excellent relationship between the two countries (Germany and Namibia).”
That is an excerpt from the Namibian National Assembly 2006 resolution on genocide and reparation which the assembly adopted unanimously that year.
It is a motion which has been driving and motivating the ongoing bids by various instances, including the Namibian Government, through its special envoy, Dr Zed Ngavirue, to eventually try and attempt a settlement. There’s no way that this resolution, and the ongoing negotiations between the Namibian and German governments, can be and should be seen outside the context of the affected communities and their couple of decades-long call for restorative justice.
This campaign can effectively be traced back to the reburial of the remains of erstwhile Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Samuel Katjiukumbua Maharero in Okahandja on August 26, 1923.
Hence the existence of what has come to be known as Red Flag Day or Ovaherero Day. In modern day post-independence Namibia this day has come to officially be known as Heroes/Heroines Day. To many Red Flag Day or Ovaherero Day, or even Okahandja Day as it has been variously referred to, has simplistically come to symbolise the culture of Ovaherero. Nothing could be far from the truth than this.
Nor is this incidental or accidental but by colonial design, as the colonial authorities would not want Ovaherero to retrace their proud history, and thus unleash a cultural renaissance that was certain to culminate in them regaining their old glory as a once powerful people.
August 26 has been even more than a memorialisation of their history, particularly their history with Imperial Germany. A history marked by many epochs including the Battle of Waterberg, and notably the Extermination Order, which was issued at the Ozombuzovindimba on October 2, 1904. Resultantly, today there exists thousands of Batswana Ovaherero, and likewise South African Ovaherero.
Likewise the Nama have been having their “national days”, all meant also to commemorate their encounters with Imperial Germany, and the eventual Extermination Order against them in 1905. Likewise many of them today find themselves in Botswana and South Africa. Citizens of these two neighbouring countries but of Namibian descent and ancestry.
Since Namibian independence their fellows in Namibia have been undertaking pilgrimages to South Africa and Botswana to connect with their fellow descendants. Vice-versa, their fellows in Botswana and South Africa have been attending events in Namibia, the last one being the gathering in Bethanie last year.
The gathering in Bethanie was an outflow of the pilgrim to Omauaneno in the Tsabong District of Botswana in 2014. This pilgrimage in Omauaneno was graced with the presence of the president of Botswana, and various traditional leaders of the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama from the three respective countries, namely, Botswana herself, Namibia and South Africa. The usual common theme at Bethanie, Omauaneno and many others like before at Tlakameng in the Western Province of South Africa in 2014, has been the common colonial history of these people, especially as pertaining to German colonialism in the then German South West Africa, as Namibia was then known.
During these interactions the reparation issue has often been high on the agenda. This, contrary to the general cultural or spiritual overtones in which these commemorations have been cast, by especially scholars from outside these communities.
There have been reports lately in the local media that the descendants of the victims of Imperial Germany’s genocidal wars in Namibia are mobilising to add their voice to the reparation call. Also nothing can be far from the truth because all along they have been part of the broader reparation movement.
What has been happening lately is just to revitalize and reconstruct their local reparation structures. But back to the motion in the Namibian National Assembly, I am reminded of the initial motion by the late Dr Kuaima Riruako.
“The National Assembly further resolves that for the affected groups to discuss the issues surrounding genocide and reparation, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany on the one hand, and the government of the Republic of Namibia and the delegation of the affected groups, on the other hand, agree on a dialogue to resolve all the issues.”
Whatever may have happened to the initial draft motion, there can be no debate that the governments of Botswana and South Africa are and must be integral parties to this process. They must bring their own voice in person, or through their duly delegated leaders.
That is why one cannot but welcome the move by the descendants in Botswana to become active in this regard. The descendants in South Africa cannot but follow suit. What this means is that our Namibian Government cannot speak or negotiate on behalf the descendants of the victims in Botswana and South Africa.