German assistance not reparations – Ngavirue

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Windhoek – Namibia’s Special Envoy on Genocide and Reparations, Dr Zed Ngavirue, has dismissed claims on NBC radio by some community members that the ongoing German development aid to Namibia is in fact compensation for the genocide committed against the Nama and OvaHerero/OvaMbanderu.

Since 1990 Germany has availed developmental assistance in various forms to Namibia, worth N$13 billion in total.

This aid is, however, perceived by some to be a form of reparations for the genocide, as demanded by the affected communities.

Ngavirue was responding to the patron of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee, Festus Muundjua, who yesterday during the NBC Otjiherero Services’ popular programme, Keetute, claimed it has proof that just after Independence an agreement was signed between both governments that Germany will compensate in the form of aid for the atrocities committed against the Namas, OvaHerero and OvaMbanderu between 1904 and 1908 by Germany’s colonial rulers.

Speaking as the former director general of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Ngavirue made it clear yesterday that agreements signed during his tenure between Namibia and Germany were of a purely developmental nature and did not have any strings attached.

He added that during that same time he also signed agreements with countries, such as China, the USA and many others as development aid.

German’s Special Envoy on Genocide, Ruprecht Polenz, and his delegation are expected to arrive in the country soon to further discuss the issue with their Namibian counterparts.

This will be the fifth engagement, following four preparatory and preliminary meetings between the two envoys, to prepare the framework for substantive negotiations.

The talks between the two governments come after the OvaHerero and Nama communities demanded reparations for the genocide committed by German colonialist forces in what was then known as German South West Africa.

Germany ruled South West Africa from 1884 to 1915. Incensed by the settlers stealing their land and cattle and taking their women, the OvaHerero launched a revolt in January 1904, killing 123 German civilians over several days.

The Nama fighters soon joined the uprising.

The colonial rulers responded ruthlessly. In response, General Lothar von Trotha issued his notorious extermination order against the OvaHerero and Nama.

Captured Nama and OvaHerero died from malnutrition and exposure to the elements. Many were beheaded and their skulls sent to research institutes in Berlin.

Up to 80 000 OvaHerero lived in Namibia when the uprising began, but only 15 000 were reportedly left after the sustained killing campaign, historical research has shown.

Germany has handed back dozens of the skulls of its Nama and Ovaherero victims, but Berlin has repeatedly refused to pay reparations, saying t the hundreds of millions of euro in development aid granted to Namibia since independence in 1990 was “for the benefit of all Namibians” .

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