Land, reparations should come with genocide remembrance day

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Matheus Hamutenya

Keetmanshoop-Consultations on having a genocide remembrance day had many of those directly affected by the genocide demanding that their ‘stolen resources’ be returned as part of declaring any future date as remembrance day.

The mostly Nama descendants who attended the public consultations on genocide remembrance day at Keetmanshoop yesterday were of the opinion that remembering the day, while they remain poor and without land and other resources taken away from them during the dark era in Namibian history, is not sensible.

Speaking his heart out, Deputy Kaptein Stephanus Goliath of the /Hai-/Khaua Traditional Authority led the call for restorative justice, saying it does not justify commemorating such a day while the descendants of those who died at the hands of the colonial masters remain oppressed, and without land and other resources that were taken away from them.

He said the extermination order against the Nama and OvaHerero people was not only about killing people, but also taking resources, and thus it does not make sense to commemorate such a day when people are still without land.

“The fight was about resources – on this day the affected communities will be in pain and the questions will come, so what am I celebrating?”

He further questioned how parliament has gotten to the point to want to declare a remembrance day for genocide victims, but put all other important issues, such as land and reparations aside, saying these issues cannot be separated.

Goliath said it is important that the problem be tackled as a whole and not pick a little piece from the big cake, noting that people should acknowledge that certain tribes lost land during that process.

He noted that choosing a date to commemorate genocide is easy, but the commemorations should have a significant meaning to those affected, adding that whilst Namibians want to agree on a specific date, it is also important to agree that the resources that were taken during this period must come back.

“We have gained independence but the resources to build ourselves remain in the hands of those that caused the genocide – those who have brought this landlessness,” he said, adding: “We want our land back, and reparations should be part of those commemorations.”
Other speakers concurred with Goliath, saying the main aim of the killing was to take away the resources of the people and thus it is only sensible that the resources taken by force are given back to their rightful owners.

One of the speakers, DeoDat Dirkse, questioned the government’s commitment to honour such a date, citing its failure to honour the 2006 parliamentary resolutions to have the Nama and OvaHerero negotiate with the German government on the genocide issue.

He said the government has made a U-turn on resolutions taken and thus it leaves much to ponder as to whether the government will be committed to remembering the day.
“If government is not sticking to the resolutions, then how will they honour this date?” he questioned.

He further asked for clarity on whether Swapo and the German government had already reached an agreement during 1978 for Germany to help with developing Namibia as part of the genocide talks, saying there cannot be a genocide remembrance day if such an agreement exists.

With regard to the date, many were fine with the proposed 28 May, while some suggested that more facts be presented for a good and meaningful date to be chosen.

28 May is the date that an order was issued to shut down all concentration camps where all surviving genocide victims were kept.

The genocide happened between 1904 and 1908 and thousands of OvaHerero and Namas lost their lives during this period.

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