A group of Ovaherero and Nama traditional leaders – under the stewardship of Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro – have suggested that a poll be held on whether government should represent them in the ongoing negotiations on the Germany-sanctioned colonial genocide, committed on Namibian soil the previous century.
In determining this they have put forward two paramount questions: whether they want to be represented by a group led by Rukuro, or by “royal houses collaborating with government”.
Another question that should be addressed, according to the traditional leaders, is whether the descendants of the genocide want to be represented through direct representation or by the government of Namibia.
The group is clear that only the Ovaherero and Nama communities should take part in the referendum, as they were the ones against whom an extermination order was issued.
The idea was made known in the capital this week when they met Ruprecht Polenz, the German Special Envoy for German-Namibian talks on addressing the genocide.
According to the presentation notes of the closed-door talks, Rukoro was joined by Chief David Frederick, Chief Petrus Kooper, Chief Sam Kambazembi, Chief Turimuro Hoveka, Paramount Chief Aletha Nguvauvua, Ida Hoffmann, Festus Muundjua and Chief Seth Kooitjie.
They questioned how the negotiations between the two governments represent the interests of Namas and Ovahereros in Botswana, South Africa, United States, Canada, the UK and possibly in Cameroon and Togo.
On the alleged German-Namibian governments’ conspiracy against victims, the group highlighted that the Namibian Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation refers to the events of 1904-08 in which hundreds of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama were murdered as “atrocities”.
“President Hage Geingob says it was a genocide of all Namibians, not a Nama or Ovaherero genocide. Germany refuses to table a motion on Herero and Nama genocide [in their parliament, while] the Bundestag president calls it a genocide, but remains mum on apology and reparation,” the PowerPoint presentation read. The group justified their suspicions of a conspiracy by adding that the German Ambassador to Namibia Christian Schlaga repeatedly says the groups outside Namibia’s negotiating structures are a minority.
“The German Government, through its Ambassador, is conniving with the Namibian Government to sideline the Victim Communities.”
In the colour-presentation the Rukoro group made it clear they would “continue to explore all other means necessary to have your government pay reparation”.
However, they urged the two governments to rethink what they call the “exclusion strategy”.
“We shall continue to be open for direct negotiations with our government as an interested party. We are willing to negotiate the terms of our government’s involvement; however, if this remains untenable to both Germany and our government we reserve the right to seek recourse.”
They stressed that this is more so now that there are worrying signs of tensions between victim communities and other tribes in Namibia, including the Germans.
“Also tensions are growing within victim communities between groups supporting the Namibian government’s exclusionary tactics and those demanding direct participation in reparation negotiations. The Namibian Government is also squarely heading for collision with the victim communities if the current trend continues.”
Before the meeting with the Rukoro group, Polenz accompanied by Schlaga met with President Geingob, Presidential Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi and Namibia’s Ambassador to Germany Andreas Guibeb at State House.
He presented a letter to Geingob from his President Joachim Gauck, in which the German head of state indicated that he knows the importance of the negotiations and was watching proceedings closely.
Polenz stressed the genocide is topical in his country’s government and parliament, with many wishing for its logical and successful conclusion.
He said the talks which initially had to start in June, had not been stalled and that they are right on schedule, but did not say whether they will meet their December 2016 deadline.