A motion was served in the National Assembly a month or two ago by Swanu of Namibia member Usutuaije Maamberua for that august house to introduce a day on which henceforth the genocide inflicted on the Namibian people, especially on the Ovaherero and Nama, would hitherto be observed and commemorated.
As of now, although many days related to this genocide are being observed and commemorated, such observances have been several, isolated, if not sporadic and erratic altogether. Needless to say, this is one anomaly, as far as the commemoration, remembrance and memorialisation of genocide is concerned, that such a remembrance day shall aim to rectify. This motion has been referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In this regard this Committee has been calling for submissions from the public and other interested instances, axiomatically also from the genocide committees. Especially submissions as to which historic epoch in the Namibian genocidal past, as it relates to genocidal acts committed by Imperial Germany, such a day of remembrance should be pegged.
This motion could not have come at a better time than now when there seems to be a change of policy, if not attitude, within the officialdom of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany in Berlin towards, if in the least, only lending a listening ear to the demands of the legitimate and authentic representatives of the affected communities on the issue of genocide and reparations.
For long those in the genocide and reparations movement have been clamouring for a day of dedication to the memory and memorialisation of those who vanquished during the dark days of German colonialism and occupation, starting with the years prior to and after 1896, the year when erstwhile Ovambanderu Paramount Chief and diviner, Kahimemua Nguvauva, and fellow, Nicodemus Kavikunua, were arrested following the Battle of Otjunda, and ultimately executed at Oshikango, modern day Gross Barmen near Okahandja.
Hearing about the Genocide Remembrance motion, and the ongoing public consultations inviting the input of the affected communities, one cannot but be reminded of the disjointed memorial activities currently by the various affected communities based on historical epochs relating to genocide they may feel and have an affinity and closeness to, and feel passionately about. This is more the case amongst the foremost affected communities, the Ovaherero-Ovambanderu and Nama. It is not clear at this stage to what extent these victim communities may have made submissions to the said committee, jointly and/or severally and separately but mindful of solidifying the reparations movement – ideally this is another opportunity for them to further close ranks and make a joint submission. Rather than each victim community pushing an own submission based on own hegemonic and parochial agenda. Because genocide is a common, if not the most common denominator to all of them. Hence the need to further accentuate this commonality and make a joint submission in this regard. One is aware of the two extermination orders issued by General Lothar von Trotha against the Ovaherero and Nama respectively. One on October 2, 1904, and the other against the Nama on April 22, 1905.
It is understandable that from each of the two cultural groupings’ respective historical genesis, they would want to opt for either of the two dates as Genocide Remembrance Day. But surely the genocide and reparations movement, whether one would want to admit it or not, has entreated a new irreversible terrain. This is the terrain of unity in action and in purpose. To solidify this unity presupposes and dictates shunning hegemonic tendencies and parochialism by either. Instead, this calls for accentuating commonalities. And commonality in this instance cannot be anything else than May 28, as suggested by the motion, as the Genocide Remembrance Day.
This is the day when the concentration camps in which thousands of the ancestors were incarcerated, and thousands succumbed from all kinds of unimaginable eventualities, were induced by their brutalisation, including starvation and enslavement.
There’s a view maintaining that this date, May 28, should be observed as Genocide Remembrance Day, being the day on which Imperial Germany’s authority in Namibia declared the notorious camps closed, this amounting to celebrating an imperial declaration. From the perspective of our ancestors who were incarcerated in these camps, and in which many vanquished, surely the closure of these camps, whatever the intention of Imperial Germany may have been, could not have meant anything else rather than survival and eventual freedom. But the essence, ultimately of the day, is to memorialise this day for its historic essence, that our people were not annihilated, period!
“It will cement unity among our people as it would solidify the genocide memory in the national psyche as compared to the current disjointed tribally-based remembrance activities happening variously over the country and mostly attended only by specific communities,” reads an excerpt from Maamberua’s motion. One could not agree more or less with him.
But whatever the views on the matter, this is an opportunity the vanguard of the genocide and reparations movement cannot afford to pass by. They have exactly eight days from today to make the necessary instrumental and constructive submission to the Committee. Needless to say, the mass of the affected communities have their eyes on their leadership to make pertinent submissions to this committee on this matter!