New Era journalist Kuzeeko Tjitemisa, yesterday sat with the Namibia Special Envoy on Genocide Dr Zed Ngavirue to get an update on the ongoing negotiations between Namibia and Germany. This is what he had to say:
NE: What is the status of the current negotiations between the two governments?
ZN: “We have had six rounds of negotiations so far and our mandate was based on the motion of parliament, which expected Germany to acknowledge that they committed genocide, to give an apology and to pay reparations.
So far we have been able to get them to accept that what was committed was indeed genocide. Germans went on to say that they are prepared to give an apology at the highest level from their side and also here in Namibia.
We can say we have advanced to that point of them not contesting that indeed what happened was genocide and that they are prepared to give an apology.
The sticking point now has been reparation because a document that we submitted, we quoted a quantum that they felt was unrealistically high. We later submitted another one of which they did not say was unrealistic but they went about suggesting what they are prepared to give on the understanding that they say it’s not reparation but ‘healing the wounds’.
As you know the word reparation in Germany is a byword, a sensitive word that they will never want to be in use because of their history.
So we said, let’s not ponder on the word; we should put our focus on getting them to understand our situation.
We also indicated that, “Okay you want to heal the wounds …you can’t be a doctor sitting in a Berlin office giving a prescription to a patient that is in Namibia. Let’s get together and work out what we can do because you are refusing to accept our content”.
So they agreed to the idea of working in technical groups; that will sit looking at the situation together here (Windhoek) before we have the seventh round.”
NE: And when will the seventh round be held?
ZN: “The seventh round is conditional upon how soon the working technical groups report back to us…”
NE: What have been the personal highlights of your involvement in this matter, especially against perceptions that this is too big a job for you?
ZN: “(Laughs)… I don’t know what that means to say the job is too big for me. First of all I have had the honour of being involved in international negotiations before. You may very well know that I was self-chosen by the Seventy
Seven Countries of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP) as a Chief Ambassador or spokesperson when we were negotiating trade and economic cooperation with the European Union which then had 15 members for the two years I was the Chief Ambassador.
Also, during the same period when I was Ambassador from the history of ACP there was a major disagreement between Central Africa and Southern Africa as to who was going to produce the secretary general of the ACP. And I was chosen to negotiate that issue… So when one says this is a big job for me, what is it based on?
But with regard to highlights, it has always been teamwork, I wouldn’t want to say it is my personal highlight.”
NE: How has the ongoing genocide court case in the US affected, if at all, current negations between the governments of Namibia and Germany?
ZN: “So far our counterpart has not told us anything about what they are doing, so negotiations are continuing.”
NE: Do you, as Namibia’s envoy on genocide, consult or take advice from the two local genocide committees?
ZN: “No, that’s very easy to answer in the sense that one of the committees is already part of our committee. They have representatives on the technical committee; they have representatives on the negotiation team, and whether we meet here or in Germany they are part of the team. But you know that there are those that stayed out and they have been unwilling to cooperate because they feel the whole thing has to be changed.”
NE: There were talks last year of a N$400 billion settlement agreed with Germany. How credible is this information?
ZN: “That’s not the figure. That’s all I can say.”
NE: Can you perhaps share with us the correct figure?
ZD: “No I don’t have such a right.”
NE: When last did you have any engagement with your German counterpart regarding this matter?
ZN: “It was 28 -29 September last year.”
NE: If any reparation is paid, hopefully in the near future, to whom would that money go and what would it be used for?
ZN: “Again this is also not a very difficult question to answer. We have not reached that particular point of the modus operandi. We have discussed in general knowing that Germany has been involved in reparations before and they more or less will want to use models that they have used before like money going into a foundation.
They have talked of a trust for particularly the affected communities. Those are the ideas they have put on our table.
But we feel that once we agree on this important issue, the modus operandi is a subject in itself where there would be consultation knowing that also this is based on the resolution of parliament. But we have not reached that point.”
NE: What necessitated the genocide outreach programmes currently ongoing, and is this admission that there was no proper consultation with affected communities before engaging Germany?
ZN: “On the contrary people talk as if there wasn’t any outreach work. There was an outreach from the word go. But initially we relied on getting information not only from the people sitting on the technical committee from the communities, but also at the Chiefs’ forum.
But we realise generally that there were questions from the public. We feel that the public needs to be informed more and also it provides an opportunity for me to go out and look at the environment.”