Kerina happy with govt’s handling of genocide talks

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Windhoek – Veteran politician Prof Mburumba Kerina has expressed satisfaction with the way the Namibian government is handling negotiations with Germany for genocide reparations.

Speaking to New Era this week, Kerina said government’s bold initiative to appoint Dr Zed Ngavirue to negotiate with the Germans was excellent, as he is a former ambassador to that country.

Ngavirue also has in-depth knowledge of the massacre of Namibian communities perpetrated by the German colonial forces, Kerina said. “Ngavirue is knowledgeable and is also well-informed about the merits of our genocide case,” he said.

Kerina, who says he personally unearthed the text of General Lothar von Trotha’s Extermination Order to the Herero people – which was issued on October 2, 1904 – says government’s approach to addressing the genocide is the way he and late chief Kuaima Riruako would have wanted it to proceed.

“I think where we are now, the negotiations from what I understand are moving in the right direction… in the path that I and the late Riruako, who submitted the first proposal to the German government, would have wanted it to be,” he said.

Kerina noted that some of the ideas he and late Riruako put forward have been incorporated and he is happy about that. He is also thankful to President Hage Geingob for putting up structures to deal with the matter effectively.

Kerina is of the opinion that if the German government agrees to compensate the Ovaherero and Nama for the genocide at the start of the 20th century – in whatever form – such benefits should be for all Namibians, regardless of their ethnic affiliation.

“I know that many of you will be angry with me for saying that, but let us be like [late] chief Hosea Kutako, who had a chief’s council composed off all tribes of this country,” he said.

“Let us illuminate chief Katjikururume (Kutako)’s vision of ‘one Namibia one nation’,” he added.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Special Envoy on Genocide, Ruprecht Polenz, and his delegation are expected to arrive in the country soon to 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/Ovambanderu and Nama communities repeatedly demanded acknowledgment of and reparation for the genocide committed by German colonial forces in what was then 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. Nama fighters soon joined the uprising, but 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 are estimated to have 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 the hundreds of millions of euro granted to Namibia in development aid since independence in 1990 was “for the benefit of all Namibians”.

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