Kae on Friday: Swapo congress a lost opportunity for genocide talks

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When Swapo sneezes it is indeed not only its members who catch the cold but all within the geographical and political frontiers of Namibia.

That is why the recently concluded Swapo congress was a matter of intense interest to all and sundry. As much congress could not have been anything but of devoted interest to the direct descendants of the victims of the 1904-1908 genocide against the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama, and thus victims themselves.

That is why through the grapevine’s mill they took note that the congress may have deliberated on the issue of the 1904-1908 genocide, and as a corollary the equally important and attendant demand for reparations.

It is not clear what may have been the content and nature of the deliberations on this vexed question, let alone the intensity of the attention devoted to it by congress. But that indeed it may have featured cannot but arouse undivided curiosity from the victims of genocide.

Since the matter has become an issue on the national agenda, thanks to the likes of late Dr Kuaima Riruako, Honourable Ida Hoffmann, to mention but only two, it has never been clear what the national political agenda on this matter is.

The Swapo congress could not have come at a more opportune time as far as the issue of genocide and reparations is concerned. Whether one would wish to admit it or not, the negotiations between the Namibian and German governments have been far from substantive and advanced as yet.

While the Namibian government has been talking about genocide and reparations, on the contrary the German government is and has been talking about “atrocities” and “development assistance” if not “development fund”.
The two positions are diametrically opposed and perhaps this explains the illusiveness of an agreement, and a conclusion. Not only this but to date, despite numerous shuttles, to and fro and vice versa between the two countries, six to date in toto, a middle ground has never been on the horizon. Same, one cannot but be conscious about the political uncertainty in the Federal Republic of Germany, following the September elections. And the difficulties in forming a government. All these must have presented the Swapo Party congress with a golden opportunity to reflect on the issue.

This is more so given the internal dynamics in Namibia pertaining to the affected communities with a substantial section of these communities wilfully opting out of the current negotiation frameworks as a matter of principle. The principle being that as affected people, they are the ones the German government must be willing to engage. Their government indeed not only as a mediator, but as the backbone of the affected communities as bona fide
citizens.

Often there’s has been the misunderstanding, coming of course from misguided and misleading signals from a section of the affected communities, that they have been excluded from the current ongoing negotiations.
Ipso facto, none of the affected communities has been excluded by none, neither the Namibian nor German government. Rejecting the current negotiations framework as a matter of principle cannot by any stretch of the imagination be an exclusion. Affected communities never claim that the current framework is the framework they have ever wanted or advocated, but now in disguise be it in format or content. Theirs is and has been the affected communities on the one hand, and the German government on the other, with the Namibian government, their backbone, as the mediator and facilitator.

If at all any section of the affected communities can be said to have been excluded from the current negotiations, this is only as far as the continued intransigence of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany to directly engage them. But not to include them in the current negotiation frameworks, which in the first place cannot be and can never be the framework contemplated and shall ever be contemplated and envisaged by the affected communities, notably the one that has been adamant that it cannot be about them without them.

With Swapo Party just emerging fresh from its congress, where the issue of genocide must have come under the microscope, can one really fault the direct descendants having high expectations from this congress? The Swapo Party of Namibia could not have been better poised than at the congress to have re-interrogated and reviewed the matter intensively, surgically and with the due attention it deserves. To address the oscillation, prevarication and ambiguity that has continued to fraught the party from within on the issue of genocide and reparations. Similarly, the affected communities as much have gigantic responsibilities, perhaps far more than either the Namibian or German governments. They need to begin to act more accountably and consequent to their legitimate ownership of the issue, showing true and dedicated leadership on this matter. Which is bigger than their respective leaderships’ egos or the egos and legitimacies of their respective traditional authorities. Remaining entrenched their respective traditional authorities, which have been seeming no more than tribal cocoons, do not seem to have been helping the noble cause of genocide and reparations in any way. In fact, such tribalism has become the nemesis of this noble cause. Thus the government, and the traditional authorities, and the leadership of the reparation movement, more than ever need a serious introspection and new approach to the issue.

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