Today is exactly three years ago since the passing on of the erstwhile Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Dr Kuaima Riruako, pioneer of the struggle of the descendants of genocide victims for reparations.
His national political history followed in the footsteps of fathers and mothers of the Namibian colonial resistance, culminating eventually in the struggle for liberation.
Consequently, he endured many trial and tribulations, including being dumped on the crocodile-infested Island of Mobova in Zambia by the colonial South African bandit military forces so that crocodiles could feast on him.
As the ancestors had an ordained divine mission for him, he survived. His mission was the cause of his people for restorative justice. He took up this mission without hesitation and without wavering after independence, spearheading it against all odds, and in the face of ridicule.
It was natural that late Riruako, as successor to the throne of the Ovaherero in 1978, succeeding the late Clemens Kapuuo, would take on the baton of restorative justice for the people.
This was a mission bequeathed to him by many leaders of the Ovaherero, starting with Samuel Maharero and then Hosea Kutako in 1923 with the re-interment of the remains of Samuel Maharero in Okahandja.
Since August 26, the very day on which Samuel Maharero’s remains were re-interred in Okahandja in 1923, Ovaherero have undertaken an annual pilgrimage to Okahandja. This has partly been to pay homage to their leaders, but most sacrosanct to re-connect with their ancestral spirits.
More often than not, detached, ill-informed and misinformed envious foreign historians have seen this pilgrimage, and many others undertaken by the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu to their various shrines in the country as simple cultural-religious escapades.
Genocide against this community took place between 1904 and 1908. Consequently, thousands were incarcerated in concentration camps in the country. Some succumbed in the Kalahari Desert while others survived to reach neighbouring countries, Botswana and South Africa. Still, others were banished to West African countries like Togo and Cameroon, where they have since been assimilated if not decimated.
However, such pilgrims are also a means through which these communities have been memorialising their history. Not as an end in itself but as means towards an end, the restorative justice end.
“He was very much influenced by the resolutions of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU), especially the one on reparations for colonial exploitation and slavery in Africa at its session held in Abuja, Nigeria, from 27 May to 1 June 1991, and during which time the Ovaherero Genocide was also acknowledged,” reads an extract of Riruako’s eulogy in 2014.
In this quest, he pressed the National Assembly to adopt a resolution on reparations in 2006. Such today is the basis of the ongoing negotiations between the Namibian government and the government of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Lately, there has been a twist to these negotiations with a section of the affected communities bidding for place of their own at the negotiation table. Unlike the general erroneous and misleading narrative, of exclusion, this section of the affected communities has not been excluded from the ongoing negotiations between the two governments. In essence, they have rejected it in principle. The genesis and format of the said negotiations was and has been alien to them.
Their uncompromising and categorical position has been to directly engage the German government on the issue of genocide and reparations. They rejected participation in the ongoing negotiations since they were in the first place never consulted about their nature, format and even content.
This group has all along been demanding that the German government deals directly with their leaders as affected communities, and for the Namibian government, to act as interlocutor between the aggrieved and victimised, the affected communities; and the aggressor, the German government.
The cardinal question, which urgently needs elucidation, is who must and should decide whether the affected communities, in accordance with the 2006 motion, must be directly represented by their bona fide leaders? Is it the Namibian government? Or the German government? Is such a question in the first place necessary given the inalienable right of the affected communities to speak for themselves?
As matters stand now, with regard to the presumed rapprochement, the affected communities must plead and beg for a position at the negotiation table with their government. Rather than taking their place at this table as a matter of their inalienable right in accordance with the 2006 motion.
Yes, the late Dr Kuaima Riruako and the ancestors may not as yet be turning in their graves, but it may be a matter of time. Depending, of course, on how matters eventually pan out.