Outspoken politician and former Cabinet minister Kazenambo Kazenambo has welcomed the class lawsuit lodged in a U.S. court against the German government for reparations over the OvaHerero and Nama genocide of 1904-1908.
“I don’t care whether we lose the case in court. What I’m interested in is the awareness the lawsuit creates about the atrocity committed by the German imperial government against the Nama and the OvaHerero communities during 1904-1908,” Kazenambo said yesterday.
He said both the Namibian and the German governments have for very long taken the genocide issue for granted.
He further said both governments had betrayed the blood of the Nama and Ovaherero and this lawsuit would serve as an eye-opener to them. The level of publicity the case is attracting at international level is enough to satisfy the affected communities, he said.
“The way our own government and the German government are handling this sensitive matter is very wrong. The approach is wrong. Government is collaborating with the Germans and laughing at the blood of the Nama and OvaHerero,” he remarked.
Ovaherero Genocide Committee patron Festus Muundjua yesterday declined to answer questions on the ongoing lawsuit that the Ovaherero and Nama traditional authorities filed against the German government in the New York last week, saying the matter is sub judice – under judicial consideration and thus prohibited from public discussion.
“After having perused through your questions, I have had a chat with the Paramount Chief of the OvaHerero, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, and he instructed that we should not respond to anybody on the court case, since it has now become a sub judice issue,” Muundjua said.
The OvaHerero and Nama traditional authority representatives on Thursday filed the class-action lawsuit against Germany to seek reparations for what former colonial power reluctantly seems to acknowledge as genocide.
The plaintiffs are seeking reparations and the right to representation in the ongoing talks between Germany and Namibia.
Beginning in 1904 some 100,000 people are believed to have been killed when Germany crushed the native uprising.
Namibia and Germany have been in talks about a joint declaration on the massacres, which Germany recently admitted was genocide, but Herero and Nama descendants have been excluded from the talks.
Unlike with the Jewish victims of World War Two atrocities, Germany has refused to pay reparations to victims of its policies in Africa, saying it contributes millions of dollars indevelopment aid to Namibia annually.
The controversy dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century, when Germany was still the colonial power in Namibia, then called German South West Africa.
The suit claims damages on the basis that from 1885 to 1903, about a quarter of Herero and Nama lands were taken without compensation by settlers with official oversight and that the German descendants still farm some of that land today. They argue that the colonial authorities also ignored the rape of Herero and Nama women and girls, as well as indigenous forced labour and the fact that as many as 100,000 Herero and Nama people died in 1904 in a campaign led by Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha after they rebelled against colonial imposition.
Historical evidence also suggests German colonists placed of their captives in concentration camps and shipped off thousands of skulls to Berlin in an attempt to prove the inferiority of the defeated Africans in now-discredited medical experiments.
The plaintiffs say Germany’s insistence that it is making amends by paying development aid is unsatisfactory. “There is no assurance that any of the proposed foreign aid by Germany will actually reach or assist the minority indigenous communities that were directly harmed,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ken McCallion, said in an email to Reuters. “There can be no negotiations or settlement about them that is made without them,” he said.
The lawsuit was lodged with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1879 law often invoked in human rights cases, but the question of the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts to rule on the matter is likely to be tightly contested.
– Additional reporting: BBC