Genocide reparations: Chickens coming home to roost?

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The chickens are seemingly coming home to roost as far as the genocide negotiations are concerned, following a meeting this week Monday when a section of the affected communities saw the president.

Who, in this context, is the chicken, though? The German government? The Namibian government? Or the traditional leaders? The position of these leaders must by now be an open book because they have been categorical that Genocide and Reparations is about them, and thus anything related to Genocide cannot be about them without them.

This means that as descendants of the victims, and thus victims themselves, there could be no way that the process should be about them without them. These leaders have all along been talking about a trialogue, meaning speaking directly and face to face with the German government, and/or its envoy, and for themselves and on behalf of their communities at the table of negotiations.

Sitting around the table should be them, as affected communities; the Namibian government, as mediator, besides its obligation to the affected communities being its citizens; and the successor government to Imperial Germany, the aggressor and perpetrator, which has bequeathed the current government of the Federal Republic of Germany its historic and moral responsibility as the German government itself would readily admit and has been admitting.

The position of a section of the affected communities that has as a matter of principle steered off the ongoing negotiations, as opposed to have been excluded, has always been, “not about us without us”, and its saddening it must have taken all these years for the two governments to grasp this. That as the direct victims they have an inalienable right to speak for themselves. A right that their government must not only protect and shield but grant, shoulder and champion without a whimper.

As long as it may have taken for the parties to seemingly come to some senses, if indeed they have come to their varied senses, one only hopes the right beginning has been made. In fact such a beginning has been there from the word go with the clarion call by a section of the affected communities since the start of the ongoing negotiations between the two respective governments, that it cannot be about them without them. But strangely this clarion call seems all this time to have been falling on deaf ears. Until this Monday, eventually, when His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob, met the leaders of these affected communities. The intransigence, among others, has been the German government’s arrogant reluctance to deal with the affected communities. As per its avowed position that it does not deal with tribal leaders. Not only this but the German government has also been on record that the make-up of the Namibian delegation in these negotiations is an internal matter to Namibia herself, and her government.

But this Monday, with the president meeting leaders of a section of the affected communities, one hopes that genuinely this is a beginning of the beginning towards consequent, forthright and purposeful dealing with this matter involving all relevant and bona fide stakeholders. Monday was just the beginning and there’s as yet not much reason for optimism. As much as the meeting on Monday should by no means imbue one with any sense of pessimism. One understands from certain quarters of the equation that the two groups on Monday agreed 90% on matters that should bind them and propel them forward towards the ultimate destiny.

But the jigsaw is far from complete, even with a 90% agreement, and now that a section of the affected communities is understandably not only joining the process but effectively bringing its indomitable spirit to the negotiation table. The affected communities include the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama in the Diaspora, of especially Botswana and South Africa. While understandably these descendants may be joining their Namibian fellows at the negotiation table, one wonders where and how their respective governments may feature and fit in this configuration. Surely this is something the parties should not take for granted but seriously and judiciously apply themselves to. After all, these two countries are member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with Namibia that ordinarily should have been seized with the issue at hand.

But most critical to the way forward, one is aware that the Namibian government has already submitted its position via a document to its German counterpart. The section of the affected communities that has not been part of the ongoing negotiations has not been privy to this document. One cannot but wonder how in the way forward they are likely to be privileged with this all important document?

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