Windhoek-Ovaherero Chief Vekuii Rukoro has described the meeting with President Hage Geingob yesterday on genocide as positive, as Namibia and Germany edge closer to hammering out consensus on the thorny issue.
Rukoro – whose relationship with the head of state has sometimes been rocky due to this very subject – said that Geingob was frankly open, while the gathering was conducted in good spirits.
Rukoro made the remarks following a marathon meeting of almost three hours at State House yesterday.
The meeting, initiated by Rukoro, was attended by various Ovaherero and Nama traditional leaders, Ovaherero/Nama genocide committee members and a number of senior ministers that included Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
Affected traditional leaders, including Rukoro and several Nama leaders that are involved in activities related to finding a solution over the genocide, have claimed to be excluded from the genocide talks currently underway between the Namibian and German governments.
This led to Rukoro and his group lodging a federal class action lawsuit in the United States (US) Federal Court in New York against the German government. The group seeks, among others, the inclusion of the plaintiffs in all negotiations between Germany and Namibia over the issue.
Addressing the media just after the meeting, Rukoro said they made certain proposals to Geingob on how to iron out the clashes of perspectives on genocide.
He said he was glad to say that the overwhelming majority of proposals they put forward constituted a sound basis for bridging the disagreement between them and the government.
“The gap between us and the government has been narrowed,” he said.
He said another meeting would follow next week and then it would be up to Geingob to announce the outcome.
According to him, the purpose of the meeting was to try and bridge the gap separating the genocide victims group on the one side, and the government on the other, on the approach to the genocide discussions with the German government, but he is optimistic of an outcome.
Up to 100 000 Hereros and Namas are believed to have been killed by German Imperial troops in the early 1900s in what was then the German colony of South West Africa.
Successive German governments have refused to accept the atrocities as genocide. The present government only agreed to the description genocide in 2015, reversing its earlier position.
The dialogue between Germany and Namibia includes discussions about an official apology for the genocide. However, Germany’s Ambassador to Namibia, Christian Schlaga, has publicly ruled out paying reparations directly to members of the Ovaherero and Nama ethnic groups.