I know Ambassador Christian Schlaga well enough to know he is no simpleton. In fact the one or two occasions we have interacted, I took him to be a very knowledgeable man, well-spoken and seemingly well-exposed representative of his country in Namibia.
That he is unable to see the inextricable link between structural inequality in Namibia, the genocide and the colonial history, perpetrated by his country, could therefore only be deliberate. I doubt that Schlaga lacks the intellectual wherewithal to have appreciated the inference implied in President Geingob’s rhetorical retort of criticism of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF). If I am mistaken, so be it.
In fact, the rebuttal to my piece (New Era, 23rd February, 2018) which was published in the New Era newspaper on 2 March 2018 on behalf of Ambassodor Schlaga by the Germany embassy in Namibia, vindicates those of us who believe that the naivety being feigned by Schlaga and the government he represents is deliberate and intentioned to obfuscate history, so as to elude justice.
If the intention of the German embassy was for our reaction to their “German-Namibia cooperation” rebuttal, to be the silence that follows victims’ remorse, then they were woefully misinformed about the determination and courage of the Namibian people. We are determined to emerge as victors for the sake of our antecedents, whom in their hundreds of thousands perished under the hand of the Kaiser, in the most heinous of circumstances.
Ironically, just before reading their response to my piece, I was reading an article in The Guardian on what is the “white saviour mentality” of aid agencies – the parallels between Schlaga’s list of good deeds in Namibia and it, were uncanny. The guilt-driven kindness of Germany as manifested by its “highest per capita aid to Namibia” is nice, but it doesn’t constitute justice in any form.
I will not drag this very important discussion into the gutter by responding to the suggestion that I use my position in SWAPO to eschew German development aid to Namibia, nor by making the issue at hand about Schlaga and me. However, I found the mere suggestion thereof as yet another Schlaga moment, lacking in tact and substance.
I was astonished also by the audacity of Schlaga’s unkind remarks towards Cde Kazenambo Kazenambo as attributed to him in New Era. Whomever the Namibian people regard as relevant or not, is our business, not his. That KK as a young man, joined the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia, puts him in a class of man and woman whose patriotism and love for this country is beyond reproach and whom shall forever be embedded in our hearts and minds.
Granted, Germany has a lot to lose by admitting genocide, including perhaps further entrenching kollektivschuld, the collective feeling of guilt attributed to Germans following WWII. In addition, I suppose the pressure from erstwhile European colonial powers not to concede to demands for atonement and restitution, is but one such fear to doing the right thing. I however had hoped, perhaps against my better judgement, that Schlaga, Polentz and even the usually morally steadfast Angela Merkel, would come to appreciate the demands of genocide descendants and Namibia as an opportunity to demonstrate a principled conscience and some moral leadership.
Quoting Professor William Paterson, Ambassador Paul Lever in Berlin Rules, refers to nascent Germany as a ‘reluctant hegemon’; notwithstanding this apt description, Germany has shown instances of great moral leadership, inclusive of these are Brandt’s Neue Ostpolitik, holocaust acknowledgement and atonement. Merkel’s migration crisis stance and that Germany boasts some of the world’s most forward thinking policy perspectives on sustainable development, are but some.
German society has the ability to lead and to think forward – it has done so on many fronts, it has without doubt the capacity to demonstrate moral fortitude on many issues. In the instance of the Herero-Nama genocide, it fails woefully to do so.