Restitution claims suitors need re-awakening and paradigm shift

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Today, Friday 13th October – it’s omen aside – we need a sober reflection. October is somewhat a historic month in the political history of this country, especially in the wars of the Namibian people’s resistance against German imperialism and colonialism.

These wars culminated in two infamous extermination orders. One on October 2, 1904, against the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu. The other on April 24, 1905, against the Nama. The anniversary of the first order, the 113th, was only last Monday.

Last Thursday also saw the fifth anniversary since the return in 2011 of the first 20 skulls of Namibian origin from Berlin, Germany. Skulls generally believed to be of victims of the two extermination orders.

But more pertinently, this month, two separate delegations shuttled in and out of the country to two different continents but for the very same purpose, albeit cross purposely. But both missions of which are related to the issue of Genocide and Restitution.

End of last week Dr Zed Ngavirue, the Namibian government’s special envoy on the negotiations on genocide and reparation, returned from Berlin, Germany presumably from yet another round of negotiations on this issue with his German counterpart, Ruprecht Polenz.

The results of the latest round of negotiations, like many others before, remains for now the privy of the few, and strangely a closely guarded secret, even to those such negotiations matters most and should belong to them, the affected communities.

This Tuesday, a section of the affected communities under the leadership of Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Vekuii Rukoro, and Nama and Ovambanderu delegations, among them the Paramount Chief of the Ovambanderu, Aletha Nguvauva, left for the United States of America (USA), for the much-awaited hearing of the class action by these communities against the Federal Republic of Germany, in the Federal District Court of New York.

This case, in which plaintiffs are pleading for damages suffered by their forebears for genocide committed against them during 1904-1908, as well for inclusion in the ongoing negotiations, was supposed to have been heard this July but postponed. This is because of the dilly-dallying, if not shenanigans of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, to accept the court documents, acknowledge receipt thereof and react to them one way or another.

It is not even clear if this time around Germany have received the documents and she would appear and/or has responded to the notice to answer to the plaintiffs’ challenge. But whatever transpires in the court in New York this week, and equally what may have transpired during the negotiations in Berlin last week, it still seems like it been all along, a long way from any conclusion and/or breakthrough, as far the victims communities are concerned.
As well as by the Namibian officialdom, led by Dr Ngavirue, and the German government, and equally for a section of the affected communities of Chief Rukoro and company, either claiming legitimacy to the issue and thus the right to steer it towards a solution and conclusion.

The Namibian government and its German counterpart, well conscious that an important component and link, the affected communities, is and has been missing from their ongoing bilateral negotiations, have nevertheless been trying to steamroll full steam towards one or another deal. That if such a deal may and is not already a formality.
Likewise, a section of the affected communities has been against the negotiations in principle, from its conceptualisation and inception. Indeed there can be no denying the fact that the ongoing negotiations have not been grounded on the right and genuine premise(s).

As much the extent to which a section of the community can claim legitimate representativeness of all, albeit a substantial bona fide section of the affected communities, also needs qualification. The groups have been pushing on as if internationally there are no precedents and lessons to be learnt from.

Both in terms of the locus standi of the Namibian government in this matter, and in terms of a broad representative structure, representing all affected communities, within Namibian, and in the Diaspora.

Surely one can borrow a leaf or two from the Israel’s government, and the Jewish claims against Germany for the holocaust against the Jewish. Israel was a party to the negotiations for the holocaust claims not as a representative the Jewish people. The Jewish people represented themselves.

While the negotiations in terms of Israel and Jewish claims for the holocaust could be a good lesson to learn from but not necessarily a blueprint for the claims of the Namibian people, it is any wonder why Namibia seems to have been reluctant, if not ignorant, of the example set by Israel and the Jewish people.

Thus until we rethink our claim against Germany as affected communities, and our government likewise reconsider its role in this claim, one cannot but doubt the futilities and fallacies of ongoing efforts at restitution, if not the genuineness of all those currently involved without any exception.
Certainly we need a serious paradigm shift in this matter!

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