Rukoro calls for restorative justice

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Lephalale-Facing death whether by Imperial Germany’s bullets and poisoned water fountains, the Ovaherero valiantly fought to survive, even the extermination order by then commander of the German military forces, says Ovaherero Chief, Vekuii Rukoro.

Enduring hardships of many battles, one of them Ohamakari, and soldiering through the Kalahari Desert and swimming across many a river like Orange, Limpopo, Mokolo and Palala, surviving currents and crocodiles, they pushed on – a ravished people with bones without flesh – to arrive here, the seat of the 110th anniversary since the arrival of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu after fleeing the German onslaught, especially in the years 1904-1908.

This was the period of intense endurance and endearment by these people after the first extermination order against the Ovaherero on 2 October 1904 by (Lothar) von Trotha, and another on 24 April 1905 against the Nama.

Rukoro led a delegation of Ovaherero and Ovambanderu traditional leaders to join their brotherhoods and sisterhoods in retracing the steps of their forebears, of 110 years earlier, after their onslaught and near annihilation. Hence, he called on his people to now take one another by the hand and as one people to fight for restorative justice from the successive German governments for the crime of genocide committed against their ancestors.

This was his message to “all the Herero people” on the occasion, which was attended by the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu from within South Africa, and Botswana and Namibia, with more than 5 000 people gracing the occasion. On the occasion, genocide committees from within South Africa and Botswana were invited to join their fellows from Namibia in the campaign for restorative justice.

The occasion was also graced by the acting Namibian High Commissioner to South Africa, Nicklaas Kandjii, who stood in for the High Commissioner, Veicoh Nghiwete, who could not attend the event as he was out of the country on official duty. He said during the colonial occupation of Namibia by Imperial Germany, fertile land and livestock of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu were confiscated.

Thus today when wishing to bury their loved ones next to their ancestors “we have to ask for permission, as land where they were buried is in the hands of the former coloniser’s descendants. This is the adverse impact on the descendants of the victims that we are feeling today”. Thanking the host and organiser of the commemoration, the Ovaherero Descendants Foundation in the Republic of South Africa for a memorable event, Kandjii said it must be seen as an “enabling opportunity to compare empirical and historical notes among ourselves as fellow descendants, relatives and friends from near and far”.

The remembrance attracted descendants of the victims of Imperial Germany’s onslaught against Namibians from as far as the United States of America, notably Ngondi Kamatuka, President of the Association of the Ovaherero Genocide in the USA, and his wife, Loide, as well as co-founder of the association, Veraa Katuuo and his wife, Vepuisa. Katuuo is one of the complainants in the class case currently in the New York federal court filed by Rukoro claiming reparation from Germany and also demanding that they are included in the ongoing talks between the Namibian and German governments on the issue of genocide and reparations.

Culturally, all the way from Namibia, the Ombimbi Investment cc, which practices traditional dances and battle cries, although confined to the sidelines of the main ceremony, nevertheless made its presence felt whenever any opportunity presented itself. After a long ride, on the Friday they just made a cameo appearance but took advantage of the window before the beginning of the main event on Saturday. Surely, their display was more than equal to the usually endless and meaningless speeches such occasions are fraught with. The commemoration was marked under the theme: “Ovaherero Growing and Going Strong”.

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